This website has previously addressed the issue of NASCAR stars racing at short tracks and what impact their star power might have on an event in regard to the level of competition and fan interest. That issue has taken center stage while the 2018 racing season is in the process of kicking off in Florida as former NASCAR champion Tony Stewart and the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series have seemingly squared off in a battle over merchandise sales at race tracks.
During the off-season the WoO Sprint Car Series apparently issued an edict that only regular drivers could sell merchandise at their events. Although Stewart has raced with the series several times and his Tony Stewart Racing team fields cars for multiple-time series champion Donny Schatz, he is not deemed to be a regular driver by the series. As a result, his merchandise trailer is not allowed on the property where WoO Sprint Cars events are being contested according to tweets posted by the co-owner of NASCAR’s Stewart-Haas Racing.
Stewart took to Twitter over the past few days to protest the policy. In those tweets, he has declared his intention not to race on the WoO Sprint Cars Series at all this season. He does race with the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions, a travelling sprint car series which he owns.
Here is the initial tweet from @TonyStewart regarding the controversy:
“If you’re around Daytona come watch us race at Volusia Speedway racing with the @ASCoC tonight and tomorrow. We’ll be at @BubbaRaceway Friday and Saturday. We’re not allowed to bring our tshirt trailer for you fans to @WorldofOutlaws races so we won’t race with them this year”
The @WorldofOutlaws Twitter account responded to that tweet with:
“Since 2004, every full-time driver has been allowed to bring their souvenir trailer to #WoOCraftSCS events. Any driver competing in an event can sell t-shirts from their hauler in the pits, which is open to fans at the end of each night at no charge.”
In another tweet, Stewart singled out World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter and driver Daryn Pittman as those most responsible for the new rule.
“Because we aren’t a full time “driver” with the series and Brian Carter and a couple of the drivers (Darren Pittman) say I would be taking money out of their pockets by bringing my trailer.”
Stewart went on to tout his deep involvement in the sport as a team owner and as a track owner(Eldora Speedway) as reason for World of Outlaws to seek resolution with him.
“For all I do and spend to support the Outlaws not to mention the things behind the scenes you don’t know that happen, you’d think they’d be more appreciative. We have other tracks we can run that WILL let us bring our trailer and sell merchandise to our fans. We’ll just go there”
In response to a tweet from a follower, Stewart indicated that his status as a NASCAR champion is not the primary issue. He continued his claim that there are behind-the-scenes issues are odds in the matter.
“And being a “superstar “ has nothing to do with this. There’s much more to this that if it was told would make the Outlaws series look really bad. That’s not my intention. But I am going to take a stand. I’ve went above and beyond to help the series since 2001. I’ve done my part!”
Of course, Stewart is not the only NASCAR racer who is involved with this particular form of dirt racing. Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. are among those who have ownership stakes in teams and compete with the series on occasion. Remember that Larson stated last year that he makes more money from souvenir sales on a weekend at a WoO Sprint Cars race than at a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekend.
Certainly, the series must take into consideration the interests of its drivers who loyally follow the long, grueling tour. At the same time, Stewart is a major contributor to Sprint Car racing as a team owner and track promoter. But most importantly, fans may be impacted as the sport they enjoy is in the midst of controversy and a noteworthy driver refuses to race.
It would seem to this writer to be in the best interest of both to resolve the matter. Surely there is some way to work through this issue in a way that is satisfactory to all parties.
Respond to this piece here –> @RichardAllenIDR