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Stewart earns enmity of fellow drivers

Published April 26, 2004

TALLADEGA, Ala. - Tony Stewart, the volatile former driver champion, is taking out his aggression on fellow drivers, not nagging members of the media.

For the fourth time this season Stewart got involved in at least one serious bumping incident.

Sunday at the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, Stewart bumped Kurt Busch on Lap 83, initiating an 11-car crash that knocked 10 cars out of the race, including Busch, who fell two spots to fourth in driver points with a 36th-place finish. Only Terry Labonte was able to return from the incident, but Stewart appeared to try to finish the veteran on the cool-down lap when he veered left to bump the No.5 Chevrolet, then drove the wrong way down pit road and back into the garage area.

Busch said he and Stewart had been drafting together well until Stewart made the unexpected move into his path.

"I got underneath him and then got him in a compromising position," Stewart said. "I just didn't back up enough to get him out of it. Everybody can say what they want and the fans are going to say what they want, too. This is a product of restrictor-plate racing."

Busch's Roush Racing teammate, Jeff Burton, was overheard berating Stewart on his team radio, saying "he just freakin' wrecked him. It wasn't even close. It was pathetic."

Rookie Kasey Kahne said Stewart "has been running into everything all year."

Stewart put John Andretti into a wall during practice for the Daytona 500, then baited him through the media for a week, bumped Andy Hillenburg at Darlington, Scott Wimmer at Bristol and more than one driver at Martinsville.

LAST ONE: Jeff Gordon won despite leading just 15 laps, eight under green. Dale Earnhardt Jr. led 11 times for a race-high 57 laps.

KERRY ON: Kerry Earnhardt, eldest son of the all-time leading winner at Talladega, the late Dale Earnhardt, drove well but was wrecked out on Lap 113 when Michael Waltrip's No.15 Chevrolet was pushed into him by Gordon. Kerry Earnhardt, making his second Cup start and first in a seven-race deal with Richard Childress Racing, slid his No.33 Chevrolet off the track, deftly preventing a major crash.

Nicknamed "Lamont" by Tony Eury Sr., Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief, Kerry Earnhardt gave his half-brother some drafting help at one point.

"I looked up and saw that fish coming up the middle (Kerry Earnhardt's car was sponsored by Bass Pro Shops) and (Eury) said "Lamont is comin' to you,"' Earnhardt said. "I couldn't wait for him to get up there. He put a great run up for his team. I was really proud of him."

NEAR MISS: Defending driver champion Matt Kenseth narrowly missed the big wreck early but still went out when the engine blew on his No.17 Ford on Lap 60. He wound up 42nd. Kenseth, who was running third two laps before the failure, did not have a DNF last season until the 29th race, also because of an engine, also at Talladega.

[Last modified April 26, 2004, 01:10:13]

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