The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) is an oddity in terms of major sporting leagues. A fully owned and operated family business, sanctioning three of the largest series (the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Truck), the France family is firmly positioned as racing royalty, for better or worse. NASCAR has grown from a small band of thrill seeking racers to a billion-dollar sports institution, with races regularly drawing millions of viewers and the organization as a whole becoming extremely valuable.
While the legacy of Bill France Sr. continues to truck into the 21st century, overseeing a handful of series on top of the big three, it hasn’t been without its share of controversy. Sanctioning over 1,500 races at over 100 race tracks through the US and Canada, as well as select international locations, complications are sure to arise. In addition, the youthful age of any league isn’t immune to the succeeding generations that bring new technology and honed skills and tactics to provide added edge on the competition. And certainly when millions of dollars are at stake, deception, disputes, and debate are sure to follow. Especially with the multitude of personalities that collide just as much as their cars do.
10. Tony Stewart’s Rise to Top
In April 2007, Stewart said on his own radio show, “It’s like playing God. They can almost dictate the race instead of the drivers doing it…I don’t know that they’ve run a fair race all year.” This was Stewart on NASCAR’s caution rules. The 43-year-old driver certainly doesn’t mince words, or shy from trading paint with his opponents. A three-time Sprint Cup champion and as of 2011 the first owner-driver since the late Alan Kulwicki to win a Cup series championship, Stewart’s stardom would be much less maligned if he wasn’t such an asshole on the track.
In the past, he has exchanged blows with Kenny Irwin, participated in a back-and-forth shoving match with Robby Gordon, and was accused of assaulting a fan in Bristol, Tennessee (but not indicted). Stewart has also infamously rubbed paint with a number of his fellow drivers as well. But most tragically, in August of 2014, Stewart was involved in a dirt track incident which left 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. dead after Stewart’s car collided with him.