Originally created 09/08/02

Drivers, owner stand behind Tony Stewart



RICHMOND, Va. - Tony Stewart won the support of his car owner and fellow drivers amid allegations that he shoved a woman the race at Bristol, Tenn., on Aug. 24.

Moments after Dale Jarrett told Stewart during the drivers' meeting for Saturday night's Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400 that they stood behind him during the on-going investigation, car owner Joe Gibbs did the same.

The Sullivan County (Tenn.) Sheriff's Office said Friday it was investigating an allegation that Stewart shoved a woman in the pits. The sheriff's office said once their investigation is complete, it may ask a grand jury to indict Stewart on assault charges.

Gibbs said he has people who are assigned to be with Stewart after each race to prevent such incidents.

"I went and talked to everybody that was with Tony from the time he was at the car after the race until he got to the hauler and got out of the hauler because we did have somebody assigned to be with him," Gibbs said. "So, I went and talked to those people. Basically, what they all told me was, they saw nothing out of the ordinary.

"Basically, here is what our number one interest is: We want every single thing - whatever it is - truthfully, to be said about this. We would like for it all to be out in the open. In every way, we want to try and cooperate.

"From every bit of research and all the people we had, I'm not even sure of exactly what all happened on the other side, but I can tell you that, from our side, we had people with Tony the whole way and followed him the whole way, and I think the simplest thing I can say is that all those people have said that they saw nothing out of the ordinary."

After refusing to talk Friday, Stewart issued a written statement before the race.

"In light of the ongoing investigation into the alleged incident following the Bristol night race, it would be inappropriate for me to comment in any great detail until law enforcement officials have completed their investigation, interviewing anyone and everyone who has knowledge about the events that transpired in the moments following the race.

"I am personally cooperating with the investigators, and I have advised all the people who work with me to cooperate as well. I am confident that once the investigation is complete, I will be cleared of any and all accusations.

"I will say, however, that I did not assault anyone. In fact, I am shocked and truly at a loss as to why someone would make such an allegation."

Stewart was fined a total of $60,000 - $10,000 by NASCAR and $50,000 by sponsor The Home Depot - and placed on probation for the rest of the year after he struck a photographer after the race at Indianapolis last month.

The driver admitted his job was in jeopardy after that altercation and he said he would seek help for anger management.

Gibbs said people were supposed to shelter Stewart at Indianapolis, too. Their rolls have been intensified since.

"To be quite truthful, we kind of felt like it was prudent on our part," Gibbs said. "I wouldn't say assigned. We just wanted to make sure we had somebody there to be with him. I guess you could say it's assigned, but the bottom line is, we were just concerned because we were in the situation where we couldn't afford anything else to happen, really."

NASCAR said it's aware of the investigation, but it wouldn't react until charges are filed or the case is dismissed.

Reach Don Coble at doncoble@bellsouth.net.