Just before the halfway point of the race a series of caution flag pit stops had shuffled the running order. Kasey Kahne took only two tires and came off pit road with the lead. Tony Stewart, who had been leading most of the day, took four tires and came out in third.
As they took the green flag Tony jumped to the outside and made the pass for second place. He closed up quickly on Kahne as they headed into turn one and it looked like he just plain ran into the back of Kahne. Kasey hit the outside wall and a bunch of guys behind him also wrecked. To be clear in case you didn't see it, Tony hit Kasey square in the back bumper and turned him around.
There is little doubt as to what Kasey Kahne and his crewchief Tommy Baldwin think happened. Baldwin ran down to Tony's pit to tell Stewart's crewchief Greg Zipadelli that his driver is a moron. Greg took offense and there was some pushing and shoving between the two teams.
In his interview it was clear that Kasey wasn't happy with Tony's driving. For the most part he took the high road and avoided making any comments that would get him into trouble with NASCAR or his sponsors.
We can expect NASCAR to fine Tommy Baldwin for his part in the melee on pit road. It will be interesting to see what other penalties, if any, NASCAR sees fit to pass out. Given the criticism NASCAR has received this year for their apparent inconsistent handling of rules and penalties you can expect NASCAR to make these penalties fairly severe.
Not Deliberate But Avoidable
Clearly he had the best car all day long and it was still very early in the race so there was no need for Tony to push that hard. He would have taken the lead back in short order anyway if he had lifted and waited a few laps to. Tony had four fresh tires compared to Kahne's two tires so it wasn't a matter of if but rather when he would be back up front.
Let me say it very clearly, I do not believe that Tony intentionally punted Kahne. He simply made a mistake in the midst of close racing. The problem is that people expect Tony to do dumb things intentionally, so any time that the Home Depot car causes a wreck people assume that he did it on purpose.
Tony has a serious image problem with his fellow drivers. He was pushing hard today, caused a wreck unintentionally, and his fellow competitors are upset with him because of his history.
A few years ago Ernie Irvan publicly apologized to his fellow drivers for a similar series of on-track problems and it still took a few years before the other drivers truly trusted him and would race with him. Tony is looking at the same kind of problems for a very long time unless he turns it around soon.