CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Two-time champion Tony Stewart likened NASCAR to professional wrestling and accused it of using bogus caution flags to shape races in biting comments made on his weekly radio show.
Stewart's appearance on his Tuesday night show was his first since skipping a post-race news conference in Phoenix. He dominated Saturday night's race but lost after a late exchange of leads with winner Jeff Gordon. Stewart said he refused interviews to avoid bashing NASCAR after officials threw four cautions for debris on the track.
"It's like playing God," he said on his Sirius Satellite Radio program. "They can almost dictate the race instead of the drivers doing it. It's happened too many times this year."
Stewart, who said he was fighting a fever and left the two-hour show early, went on to say fans are complaining about debris cautions and NASCAR isn't listening.
"I guess NASCAR thinks 'Hey, wrestling worked, and it was for the most part staged, so I guess it's going to work in racing, too,"' he said. "I can't understand how long the fans are going to let NASCAR treat them like they're stupid before the fans finally turn on NASCAR.
"I don't know that they've run a fair race all year."
NASCAR called Stewart's comments "very, very disappointing."
"NASCAR has been running races since 1948, and we place the safety of the drivers at the top of the list," said spokesman Jim Hunter. "We have more people and more resources than ever officiating our races. The safety of the drivers is our first priority. It has always been that way and will continue to be that way.
"There are thousands of talented race drivers out there who would consider it an honor to compete in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series."
Although NASCAR has a policy that prohibits obscene language and gestures on television, the sanctioning body has no rule against criticizing its officiating. The NBA and NFL both fine its participants for criticizing the referees.
Notes. A lawyer for Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. entered a not guilty plea on Unser's behalf in Henderson, Nev., to charges including driving under the influence in a January crash. His trial is set for July 11. . . . Juan Pablo Montoya was fined $10,000 by NASCAR for making an obscene gesture at a camera following practice last week at Phoenix International Raceway. He was also placed on probation through the end of the year. Team officials have maintained the gesture was made in fun and that Montoya was unaware the camera was providing a live feed.