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After Stewart taps Kahne, crews fight

7/11/2004

JOLIET, Ill. -- Team owner Ray Evernham called on NASCAR to
suspend Tony Stewart after the driver tapped the back of Kasey
Kahne's car, sending the rookie spinning into a wall and touching
off a fight in the pits between the teams' crews.

Stewart went on to get his first victory of the season in the
Tropicana 400.

"He definitely needs to get suspended, and he should have his
(backside) beat,'' said Evernham, owner of Kahne's team, Evernham
Motorsports. "That's the problem with him. Nobody has ever really
grabbed him and given him a good beating.

"If he doesn't get suspended, maybe I'll do that.''

Stewart is already on probation until Aug. 18 for an altercation
with Brian Vickers after the June 27 race at Sonoma.

"I asked (NASCAR) if they're going to do anything about it over and over again,'' said Evernham, clearly livid after meeting with
NASCAR officials. "Does someone have to get hurt? Is that what
it's going to take?''

Stewart said he wasn't sure what happened.

"I wish I knew,'' he said. "I was catching him. He checked
up.''

Kahne was leading Sunday's race under a caution, with Sterling
Marlin second and Stewart third. After the restart on lap 127 of
the 267-lap race, Stewart passed Marlin on the outside, but his
Chevrolet got too close to Kahne's Dodge and tapped the back end.

Kahne started spinning, sliding headfirst into the wall while
Stewart darted out of harm's way and into the lead.

"Obviously the 20 (car) was in the back of me and put us up in
the wall,'' Kahne said. "I don't know why he would do that. He had
the car to beat all day. All he had to do was go through a couple
more turns and he probably would have passed us.''

A few seconds after the wreck, Kahne's crew chief Tommy Baldwin
charged into Stewart's pit. Baldwin and Greg Zipadelli, Stewart's
crew chief, shouted at each other, and then members of the crews
began fighting.

"I was just talking to Zippy and telling him his driver is a
moron,'' Baldwin said. "They started pushing me and then the
official grabbed me. I don't know what happened after that.''

The pit crews mixed it up for a few minutes before order was
restored. The shirt of one crew member was ripped open. Kahne's
crew went back to their garage to try to repair the car, which was
severely damaged in the front. After a few minutes, Baldwin walked
to NASCAR's trailer and spent several minutes inside talking with
officials.

"(Stewart) was doing what he's been doing all year _ driving
like a moron,'' Baldwin said. "There's no reason to do that stuff,
and he gets away with it all he wants and all NASCAR does is fine
him.

"He's got plenty of money, the guy needs to sit out a race.
That's it.''

Six other cars -- including those of Jeff Gordon and Dale
Earnhardt Jr. -- were caught up in the wreck. No one was hurt. Kahne
got back into the race on lap 214, but was 87 laps off the lead.

This isn't the first problem involving Kahne and Stewart. At
Darlington in March, Stewart bumped Kahne from behind and sent him
sliding through turns three and four. Both were able to continue
racing, with Kahne finishing 13th and Stewart 17th.

NASCAR put Stewart on probation for his run-in with Vickers, and
also fined him $50,000 and docked him 25 championship points.

Stewart also has a laundry list of other offenses in his first
five seasons in NASCAR's top series. From throwing his heat shields
at Kenny Irwin on the track his rookie year to punching a
photographer in 2002, he's racked up more than $100,000 in fines.
He's been on probation four times.