May 18, 2012
By Rebecca Gladden
I have a question for you:
Do you have a question for Tony Stewart?
Seriously. Put on your reporter’s hat for a minute.
You’re standing next to Stewart, your digital recorder in hand, at one of the Friday morning “behind the hauler” media sessions.
Or maybe you’re in the media center, laptop at the ready, waiting for Stewart to arrive at the dais for his weekly scheduled press conference.
What would you ask him?
Stewart is a notoriously challenging interview, even for seasoned media members.
At times argumentative, at times affable, always edgy, Stewart has perfected a piercing glare that makes reporters shrink in their seats -- especially if one’s question does not meet his vaguely-defined standards.
And it can be difficult to get a usable answer from Stewart if he decides that your query does not warrant one.
Consider this pair of questions and answers from last week’s media session with Stewart at Darlington after Friday morning’s practice.
Media: What do you think could bring more fans to the race track?
Stewart: I have no clue. I honestly have no idea.
Media: Do you think if Dale Earnhardt Jr. won that would bring more fans to the track?
Stewart: I don’t know -- do you think it would?
Given these examples, and given the opportunity, what would you ask Tony Stewart?
According to the written transcript of Friday’s Darlington presser, Stewart “discussed helping teammate Danica Patrick adjust to the track,” among other topics.
In fact, after the perfunctory first question about how his car was in practice, Stewart was asked six straight questions about Danica, all of which he answered at length.
Knowing that, if you had a chance to interview Stewart before Darlington, would you ask him about Danica? As a race fan, is that what you want to read about?
Last year, a reporter asked Smoke whether he thought that the safety features of the Car of Tomorrow were making racing “too safe” - in other words, too boring for fans.
His response created a YouTube sensation that has been viewed over 178,000 times: It’s just one of numerous videos, preserved forever on the internet, showing Stewart’s contentious relationship with the media.
After Talladega two weeks ago, where he finished 24th, Stewart stymied reporters with cryptic comments about the racing action and statements like, “I'm just sorry we couldn't crash more cars today,” and, “It would have been a lot more fun if I could have gotten caught up in one more wreck.”
Though his blatant sarcasm was seemingly intended to send NASCAR a message (what other reason could there be?), Stewart denied the obvious in Darlington, telling reporters, “I wasn’t trying to deliver a message. The good thing is that I’m in Darlington this week and I’m happy to be in Darlington this week. I haven’t won a Southern 500 yet, so I’m excited with getting Vegas under our belt earlier this year. This is a big week for us and I’m glad to be focusing on it.”
I guess if you’re thinking of asking Stewart any questions about the prior week’s race, you can cross those off the list, too.
Now, it’s your turn. The microphone has been handed to you. Stewart’s looking at you. The rest of the media members are waiting to hear your question -- and his reply.
So, tell me, what would YOU ask Tony Stewart?
I really want to know.
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