YORK HAVEN, Pa. – All Star Circuit of Champions owner Tony Stewart spoke publicly for the first time on Thursday after nearly a week of social media conversation stemming from the series’ most-recent event at BAPS Motor Speedway.
The Sunday night affair, won by Gerard McIntyre Jr., was remembered most for the five teams who were disqualified as a result of work-area violations under red-flag conditions on the opening lap of the event.
After a fuel leak from polesitter Justin Peck caused the stoppage, the teams of Danny Dietrich, Anthony Macri, Lance Dewease, Ryan Smith and Skylar Gee were all tossed due to their crew members being outside of the coned-in work area in the infield.
The DQs elevated McIntyre to the outside pole for the restart, a position that ultimately sent him on to victory lane, while fans and drivers in attendance and watching from afar were left frustrated about the turn of events which parked several top contenders.
Stewart finally spoke out about the BAPS event and its surrounding circumstances on Thursday afternoon, releasing a lengthy statement detailing his thoughts on the matter.
“On Sunday night at BAPS Motor Speedway, the All Star Circuit of Champions disqualified five teams and drivers from the feature event due to their crews leaving the designated work area in the infield of the track. This is stated in our rule book and the designated work area was communicated to the drivers at the driver’s meeting,” explained Stewart. “Our officials called the rules violations accurately.
“With that said, I acknowledge that the punishment of disqualification does not fit the wrongdoing by the teams. The intent of the rule is not only for the safety of the crew members, but also to provide a level playing field for all teams in the infield,” he continued. “On Sunday night, track and series officials both determined that a designated area was required for crew members to keep them safe and away from certain areas of the infield.
“I assure each and every track owner, promoter, team owner, driver, crew member and most importantly the loyal fans that support their drivers and tracks, that this will never happen again,” Stewart noted. “We will not put ourselves in a position to have to monitor the designated work area. In the instances that our teams are parked outside the track, the work area will remain outside the track unless the track designates it elsewhere. Any disqualification will be reserved for only those violations that warrant such a response.”
Stewart was also quick to point out that, from the competitors’ side, he was equally disappointed about not being able to challenge himself against those drivers who were parked so early in the 30-lap feature.
“I was a participant in this race for the third straight year and, as a driver, I was upset that I didn’t get to race against the cars that were disqualified,” he said. “I won the All Star race at BAPS Speedway last year and it (was) one of the biggest races that I have ever won for one reason: I came to Pennsylvania and beat the best in the sport.
“Coming to Pennsylvania is important for me and for my series; it’s the toughest racing in the country. When you win in Pennsylvania, you know you beat the best.”
Stewart noted that he has spoken with all of the disqualified teams and “had meaningful discussions with each of them,” and that all of the teams and their drivers have committed to supporting the All Stars next weekend at Port Royal for the Night Before the 50 and the 52nd Annual Tuscarora 50, as well as at Williams Grove on Sept. 20 and at the Dirt Classic at Lincoln Speedway on Sept. 21.
In addition, Stewart stood behind ASCoC series director Eric Walls, who took backlash in his own right on social media following the BAPS event Sunday night.
“I would like to publicly support my series director, Eric Walls,” Stewart affirmed. “Eric is fair and consistent to each and every team that races with us regardless of their tenure, number of wins or resume. Eric did his job Sunday night and he will do so again, beginning this weekend in Ohio. I have the utmost respect and confidence in Eric. If anyone is to take the blame for the rule as it was written, that falls on me as the series owner.
“Finally, it is important to note that my officials made the call Sunday night. BAPS Motor Speedway was not involved in the decision to disqualify the teams,” he added. “Scott (Gobrecht) and Kolten (Gouse) do a great job at their facility and have invested their money and time to make their track a top facility in central Pennsylvania. I ask that you do not hold them accountable on any level and support them just as you have in the past. I extend this ask of support to all tracks in central Pennsylvania. There are a number of high-paying shows left in Pennsylvania over the next two months, and these tracks cannot pay out purses of this magnitude without fan support.
“I am truly sorry for the impact this has caused on the fans, teams, drivers, BAPS Motor Speedway and their partners – including the Snyder family and BAPS Paints – and our series partners, including Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and Mobil 1.”