Originally created 08/07/02

Stewart fined $10,000 for punching photographer



CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NASCAR fined Tony Stewart fined $10,000 Tuesday and put the driver on probation for the rest of the year for punching a photographer after the Brickyard 400.

Stewart hit Gary Mook, a freelance photographer for the Indianapolis Star, as Mook tried to take pictures of the driver following his 12th-place finish Sunday.

NASCAR also told Stewart to apologize formally to Mook.

"It is imperative that we protect the integrity of our sport," NASCAR president Mike Helton said. "This type of behavior cannot be tolerated and is in no way indicative of the manner in which our drivers, teams, tracks and sponsors interact with the media.

"We take pride in our accessibility and interaction with the media and we intend to protect that relationship."

This year marks the second straight year Stewart will end the season on probation. He was punished last year for arguing with a Winston Cup official, then slapping a tape recorder out of a reporter's hand and kicking it under a truck. He also was fined $10,000 then.

Stewart has been known to lose his temper after poor performances. His run Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - his hometown track and the one place he desperately wants a victory - was one of them.

He set a new track record in winning the pole for the Brickyard 400, and his Pontiac was among the leaders the entire race. But he faded over the final four laps.

Stewart then drove his car straight into the garage area, abandoned it near an empty stall, and briskly began to walk through the open space to his hauler.

Mook approached him, Stewart began to jog, and when Mook began to run alongside him, Stewart turned to him and punched him in the chest. On Monday, NASCAR interviewed reporters and photographers who witnessed the confrontation.

Both Helton and Winston Cup director John Darby spoke with Stewart but declined to discuss details of that conversation.

Stewart had stayed out of trouble this season, often avoiding postrace news conferences.

The biggest fine in NASCAR history was handed to Ray Evernham, then crew chief for Jeff Gordon. He was fined $60,000 for using an unapproved suspension part in the May 1995 race in Charlotte.

One of the biggest penalties came earlier this year when NASCAR barred Kevin Harvick from a Winston Cup race at Martinsville Speedway because of his actions during and after a truck race.