Stewart issues stern warning to Larson
June 20, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
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SONOMA, California -- Although reporters were still asking questions Friday about an on-track incident last week between rookie Kyle Larson and veteran Tony Stewart, the drivers were ready to put things behind them.
While Larson said Thursday he's chalked up the whole thing as a learning experience, Stewart issued a stern "suggestion" Friday in between practices at Sonoma Raceway.
"He'll learn it's not a good idea,'' Stewart said of Larson blocking him during a restart last Sunday at Michigan that damaged Stewart's No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy and possibly negated what Stewart felt would have been a top-five finish. Stewart finished 11th.
"If he didn't learn it last week, he'll learn it in the next couple of weeks," Stewart said. "We had a really good car. We had a top-five car for sure, and a top-three car in my opinion according to listening to our lap times and what the leaders were running. And then on a restart, he swerves over to block us and puts a big hole in the nose that we've got to come in and fix. By the time we get it fixed, we're buried so far back at the end of a race like that, we couldn't do anything.
"So, I think he'll learn, just like we all learned when we were rookies, one way or the other.
"He'll either slow down enough and think about what he's doing or he'll be forced in a situation where he'll have time to think about it and they'll still be cars on the race track."
Larson acknowledged this week he was "mirror driving" and said he knew immediately the three-time Sprint Cup champ was going to be frustrated by it.
"On the restart, he lined up behind me, and I was mirror driving and saw him go to the right so I went to right, felt him hit me and thought, 'Tony's going to be pissed,' so I pulled up top, let him by and drove around him a couple corners later," Larson said on Thursday. "When the (next) caution came out, I knew what was going to happen, and I knew he was going to pull next to me and show me he wasn't happy."
But, Larson also contends, a lot of false drama is being created about the incident.
"It's not as if I did something real bad to him,'' said Larson, who finished eighth at Michigan in the No. 42 Target Chevrolet and is ranked eighth in the championship standings.
"I'm real good friends with Tony, but it doesn't matter on the race track, we all know how super competitive he is. I'm not too worried about it.
"Maybe he's just trying to intimidate me or treat me (like the new kid.) I get that. I understand that.
"It's really not a big deal yet. We haven't wrecked each other or anything major. I really don't think it's a big deal."