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Spot News Writing
Fourth Place
Greg Engle, Examiner.com

Welcome Back Tony Stewart, We Missed You

It was something that hasn’t been seen in NASCAR for years. Saturday night following the race at Richmond three time champion Tony Stewart stood on pit road. He had just finished third after leading for 118 laps; only to lose after a late race caution for debris.
Unlike the Stewart we’ve seen in recent years there was fire in his eyes and a wry smile that hinted at more sarcasm than humor. Stewart questioned the wisdom of the final caution with 14 laps to go. He also made no secret of the fact of how felt, albeit in a rhetorical fashion.

"We got ... we lost it on a plastic bottle on the backstretch,” Stewart said as his eyes darted around as though he were looking for an escape. “For a caution for a plastic bottle, so you tell me how you'd feel."

Stewart continued in the media center a little while later. Although still upset about the late race caution, Stewart knew there were other reasons he lost the race, and could still put somewhat of a silver lining on his third place run. He still wasn’t afraid to speak his mind though.

“Well, when the caution is for a plastic (water) bottle on the backstretch, it’s hard to feel good about losing that one, “he said. “I mean. And we gave it away on pit road. So we did everything we could to throw it away; it got taken away from us. That’s the best car I’ve had a Richmond in a long time. So I’m really proud of that and (crew chief) Steve Addington and I’m proud of our guys. But we’ve got some work to do on pit stops right now. I don’t know what their malfunction was but I’m pretty ticked off about it tonight.”

Since becoming part owner at Stewart-Haas Racing after leaving Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR and the media have gotten a seemingly different Tony Stewart; a 2.0 version. When Stewart first started in the sport, the 1.0 version wasn’t known for being warm and fuzzy with the media. In fact more than once a hapless reporter became victim of a Tony Stewart outburst. Whether the reporter asked something Stewart considered ‘stupid’ or met up with Stewart at the wrong time, tape recorders have been snatched and thrown, curses issued and tiptoes walked upon by the media when they dealt with the 1.0 version.

Those days seemed to end when Stewart took over the role of owner-driver. What NASCAR got in the 2.0 version was a polished PR friendly driver willing to meet with the media and wear a smile that was genuine. It made some in the media wonder where the old 1.0 version Stewart had gone. It turns out he may not have gone very far at all. He may have been lurking just under the surface and he reappeared Saturday night.

During Stewart’s post race press conference, a seasoned reporter asked a question about the lack of crashes in NASCAR recently.

“Only you would think about stuff like that,” Stewart quipped. “I don't know what you think of during the race but I try to figure out how to win the race and make my car go fast. I don't sit there and think of that petty crap you think of. Glad to see you're back to form.”

It was also good to see Stewart back in his old form. In a NASCAR world of vanilla drivers and very few personalities, NASCAR needs someone like the Tony Stewart of a few years ago. Whether the 1.0 version of Stewart will stick around though remains to be seen. As he proved Saturday night after Richmond however, we may still see the 2.0 polished Tony Stewart, but the old 1.0 version is still there and can show up at any time