Tony Stewart apparently had to blow off some smoke. The former NASCAR champion was filmed punching a heckler during a sprint car event in Jackson, Minnesota last weekend. Video of Stewart’s hit was obtained by TMZ and quickly spread on social media (Video contains NSFW language).
Stewart had descended on Jackson Motorplex for “Tony Stewart Night” on July 26. Despite retiring from NASCAR competition after the 2016 season, Stewart has remained somewhat active in sprint car racing, which is popular on dirt tracks throughout the country. Stewart ran a single lap of the evening’s event, labeled the All-Star Circuit of Champions, before his car’s engine blew.
He nonetheless remained behind after the event to meet with fans and sign autographs. According to TMZ, the heckler cursed Stewart out for completing only one lap. The driver allegedly returned words with the heckler and can be seen directing his middle finger toward an off-screen party before charging at him. He then appears to punch a man in the face in the face before being restrained.
Local police officers told TMZ that they were not called to the scene and that the matter was handled internally. Stewart or his camp did not respond to their request for comment.
Fans on social media largely sided with Stewart. Fellow NASCAR veteran Kenny Wallace likewise approved.
Stewart, 48, was known for his confrontational attitude during his NASCAR tenure, notably engaging in several on-track incidents. Nonetheless, he is fondly remembered for his winning three Cup Series titles (2002, 2005, 2011) and 46 Cup races (good for 10th all-time). He will be inducted into Charlotte’s NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2020 and remains active on the modern circuit by fielding his own race team alongside Haas Automation founder Gene Haas.
Stewart-Haas Racing currently runs four full-time cars. Stewart’s final championship came in the organization’s No. 14 car, while Kevin Harvick captured another one three years later in the No. 4.