Stewart focuses on 'fun' after NASCAR fine, policy change
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Tony Stewart kept his thoughts to himself after NASCAR beefed up the penalties for using fewer than five lug nuts on each wheel during a race.
Carl Edwards and Chase Elliott both backed the move.
''I listened to Brian France speak about it, and if the intention is to make safer for the drivers and fans, it's a good thing,'' Edwards said Wednesday, two days after series officials announced it would assess tougher penalties on the rule-breakers.
Edwards, who has won the last two Sprint Cup races, and Elliott, one of the series brightest young stars, were in town for Goodyear's two-day tire test on Indy's 2.5-mile oval. Stewart and Aric Almirola were the only other drivers testing, but Stewart declined to talk with reporters.
Last week, Stewart urged series officials to tighten up the lug nut rule that stopped being enforced last season. NASCAR can only check the lug nuts before and after races, but may call a car back to pit road during races.
Stewart's reward for his opinion was a $35,000 fine under NASCAR's behavior rules. The Sprint Cup Drivers Council raised the money to pay the fine for Stewart, but he said Wednesday that he would pay the fine and the money from the council was being donated to Autism Delaware.
On Monday, NASCAR announced it would impose mandatory fines and other penalties for teams caught short on lug nuts. And if a tire falls off during a Sprint Cup race because of ''improper installation,'' the crew chief and other crew members would receive at least a four-race suspension.
So Stewart steered clear of any rules discussion at his home-state track. Instead, the three-time series champ who is retiring after this season got sentimental.
''I'm actually having fun up here. This is my last tire test as a driver,'' he told a NASCAR spokesman. ''It's been kind of fun, because three of the main guys that were here when I started are here at this test - they don't always get to come to the same test together - so it's kind of nice to be working with them one last time. I don't like to go test, it's boring to me, but I've always liked any chance I got to come up to Indy and test, it's something I always want to do.''
How much information drivers got out of the test was unclear because of the weather conditions. After heavy rain moved through the Indianapolis area Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday was cool and overcast - conditions that are not likely to be replicated in late July for the Brickyard 400.
Edwards is coming off a win at Richmond after his bump-and-run move to get past Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch on the final turn. Edwards acknowledged Wednesday that because of the tire test and the prep work that went into it, he hasn't yet spoken with Busch but he intends to.
''The good side of what happened Sunday is that we've got very fast race cars, our group is good and as a group we're fast every week,'' Edwards said. ''It's neat to have to race your teammate, but I don't see it being a problem. We're going to Talladega this week and we're going to work together as a team just like we did at Daytona, and I hope I have to battle my teammates for the win.''