Friday, September 22, 2023

Tony Stewart, Ernie Francis Jr. Clash in SRX Event at South Boston Speedway

Tony Stewart was FURIOUS at Ernie Francis Jr, after a move that the three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion thought was abhorrent.

Just as it usually happens in short track racing, Saturday’s Camping World SRX event from South Boston Speedway featured tons of full-contact racing, featuring multiple instances of tempers flaring between drivers.

However, things boiled over in a spectacular way for series co-founder Tony Stewart, after the second heat race, and Ernie Francis Jr. was the recipient of the three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion’s anger.

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As the drivers and teams prepared for the 100-lap feature, Stewart walked over to Francis, grabbing the collar of his firesuit and hollering at the Indy Lights driver, showing his immense displeasure with the 24-year-old.

The NASCAR team owner’s anger stems from an incident early in the second heat race, where Paul Tracy was turned around from the lead by Helio Castroneves, which left the rest of the field scattering to avoid the spinning car, which resulted in contact between Francis and Stewart.

Speaking to Willy T. Ribbs on CBS’ live coverage of the Camping World SRX Series event, Stewart had some pretty strong words about the contact and how he was being raced throughout the first portion of the season.

“They’re about ready to get a dose of it they don’t want, trust me, I know every dirty trick, and I’ve got it in my bag,” Stewart said. “When you’re following someone and the guy’s on the outside, and as soon as he gets clear he turns right across, that’s the dumbest shit you can do, I swear to god.”

I’m just done playing nice with everybody, it’s like anybody that touches me, I’m touching back times five, I’m just done jacking with some of these clowns. You’re getting ready for one hell of a show for the rest of the night, and the next four weeks, I can promise you.”

Despite being angry with Francis, Stewart was able to appreciate the talent of the driver, but by the end of the sentence was fuming once again with the impatience by the non-NASCAR drivers.

“I love Ernie Francis, I was so excited he got here last year, and he won IRP and it got him a shot in an Indy Lights car, and he deserves it. He’s so talented, and he’s more talented than doing that stupid shit, and that’s what ticks me off,” Stewart continued. “I tried to race these guys all with respect and give them room and we got cars we have to run the next four weeks in a row and have guys making stupid mistakes, just pisses me off.”

For someone as young as Francis is, when a legend like Tony Stewart approaches you as frustrated as he was, you usually back down a bit, but to Ernie’s credit, he didn’t back down.

“He came over afterward pretty upset. I’m not going to take that from him. I know he’s the boss, but rubbin’s racing out there,” Francis said. “He got up on my inside, I didn’t see him there, I was two-wide with Andretti and someone else, I turned down, didn’t see his car there until the last second.”

It wasn’t necessarily the anger that Francis had an issue with, but rather the shenanigans under caution, commenting on the move by the inaugural champion of the Superstar Racing Experience.

“For him to hit me under caution that’s kind of a dirty move, that’s kind of something Paul Tracy does, so for him to come after me and push me around after that, I’m not going to take that from him, but it is what it is.”

The rivalry was unable to continue, as Stewart ran inside the top half of the field throughout Saturday’s 100-lap feature, while Ernie Francis started at the rear of the pack, and struggled to get any traction, finishing seventh.

Joseph Srigley
Joseph Srigley
University of Windsor | Business Administration - Supply Chain & Data Analytics Editor at

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