Tony Stewart may be known as one of the most popular figures in NASCAR history, but he, unfortunately, made headlines for a different reason recently. The 48-year-old Stewart was caught on camera punching a heckler in the face during an autograph session, according to TMZ Sports. One eyewitness, a man named Brandon Woehl, says that the heckler began cursing at Stewart for "quitting" after only one lap.
Stewart was taking part in a sprint car race in Jackson, Minnesota recently when he suffered issues both on and off the track. The three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion lost his engine after only one lap and was forced from the race prematurely.
"F— you, Tony," the heckler allegedly said, "You piece of s—. You come here and basically race for one lap and quit, you piece of sh-t." Stewart responded by saying that his car had suffered mechanical issues, responding with, "I blew my engine, you f—ing a—hole. Do you want to pay for it?"
The interaction continued with the pair trading middle fingers before Stewart ultimately charged toward the heckler and punched him in the face.
Following the punch, Stewart was taken away by members of his team while the heckler was moved out of proximity by event security.
TMZ Sports reports that the police were not involved with this issue. The matter was instead handled internally by race track officials. No charges have been filed against Stewart by the heckler.
While it's never ideal to lose an engine during the first lap of a race, having such a negative interaction with a heckler just made the entire situation even worse. The blowout came on what had been advertised as "Tony Stewart Night" by the Jackson Motorplex. Not wanting to see the fans become even more upset after his early departure from the race, Stewart stayed and signed autographs for those in attendance. This is when the conflict occurred.
Stewart officially retired from NASCAR following the 2016 season but still spends a considerable amount of time racing in events around the country. Although these are decidedly smaller competitions.
An 18-year veteran with 49 wins to his name, Tony is set to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2020. He's also the co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, which has found frequent success in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.