Tony Stewart sounds off on qualifying, a rule change and his pet pig

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Tony Stewart took to the airwaves Tuesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, discussing a variety of topics, including his thoughts on group qualifying at restrictor-plate tracks, his future as a sprint car driver, a rule change for the Camping World Truck race at Eldora and why his pet pig is called Pork Chop.

Teammate Kevin Harvick, the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, joined Stewart on “Tony Stewart Live.”

Among the topics they discussed:

The Daytona 500 will feature group qualifying for the first time to set the front row and the starting lineups for the duel qualifying races.

“To be perfectly honest, I am not a big fan of that,’’ Stewart said of group qualifying at a restrictor-plate track. “It’s exciting to watch, but the thing that most don’t realize is that, first of all, you’re trying to be the last guy to come out (to get the aerodynamic advantage). Once those guys in the back get that run and make that first lap, the last thing they want to do is go ahead and run that next lap full throttle and give the guys they just passed the same opportunity.

“So what you have is guys dumping out of the throttle and closing rates that are not good at all. You can’t hardly see through the guy in from of you. If somebody does something three or four cars up there and your spotter can’t tell you about, it has a lot of potential to be, you know, bad.

“It’s qualifying. We have enough trouble wrecking cars at restrictor-plate tracks as it is. I do like the idea that it’s traditional as far as locking in the front row. I think that is something that is important. I think there’s ways that maybe in the future NASCAR could do a little different.

“I think all in all the whole qualifying format for the year was awesome. I thought that was one of the best changes and one of the easiest changes NASCAR had to make. It was a really, really good decision on their part. It brings a lot of excitement on Friday, I’m just not crazy about it at Daytona and Talladega.”

Stewart also was asked why he recently purchased the All-Star Circuit of Champions sprint car series.

“I’m not going to be in a sprint car for a while if ever again,’’ said Stewart, who was injured in a sprint car crash in 2013 and involved in a fatal sprint car incident last year. “This is a way to give back to the sport. I’m passionate about it.

“I’m really excited. I’m leaving for Florida (Wednesday) and getting ready for a good week down there in Ocala” with the series.

As for the Xfinity Series, Stewart and Harvick were asked on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio how many races they would run. Harvick said he would run 12 Xfinity races and “hopefully” some Camping World Truck races. Stewart said he had no Xfinity races planned for this season. Harvick said he also would work three Xfinity races in the TV booth.

Stewart shared some news on his show about the Eldora Truck race. Last year, 20 Trucks in the 30-Truck field were locked in. That won’t be the case this year. It was revealed on the show only five Trucks will be locked in this year.

“With only five locked-in positions, there’s a good opportunity to have more entries than we’ve ever had, if Trucks are available, because guys know they legitimately can race their way in much easier than they what they did the last two years.’’

Stewart and Harivick were asked what drivers other than Stewart-Haas Racing teammates have a chance to win the title.

“Jeff (Gordon) wants to go out on a high note,” Stewart said. “It would be crazy not to count him as a factor. Jimmie Johnson is always a factor. Dale Jr. is going to be a factory. Kasey (Kahne). I think the Penske cars were solid all year long.’’

Said Harvick: “I think Carl (Edwards) is probably going to have a lot of momentum.’’

Said Stewart: “It will be interesting to see how the restructuring at Joe Gibbs Racing has been as far as driver-crew chief combinations.’’

Stewart also got questions about his pet pig.

“The reason he’s named Pork Chop is because that was his first and final warning that if he did anything bad that that’s what he would become,’’ Stewart said. “He’s well exceeded the one warning and living to tell about it. He literally runs the show. He would be good in Washington because he’s really good at lobbying for food.’’

 

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).