HOMESTEAD, Fla., Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Tony Stewart's path to the NASCAR Winston Cup championship has been much more difficult off the track than in the heat of battle.
Stewart's fiery temper has been the major roadblock on his way to the title entering Sunday's season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Trouble has a way of finding Stewart and it found him Saturday in the garage area.
As Stewart left a news conference and returned to his team transporter, he bumped into a photographer while trying to avoid a crowd of fans and other photographers. The photographer, Rusty Jarrett, said he took a forearm from Stewart.
Jarrett was not injured.
According to NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter, the dispute is under investigation. A photo of the incident was "inconclusive."
Earlier this year, Stewart was fined $10,000 by NASCAR and $50,000 by sponsor The Home Depot for punching photographer Gary Mook after the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Stewart apologized to the photographer and took him to dinner when the Winston Cup series stopped in Kansas City in September.
Stewart also said he was undergoing anger management sessions but still shows the fire that has gotten him in a load of trouble.
He enters Sunday's race with an 89-point lead over Mark Martin. Stewart can wrap up his first Winston Cup championship by finishing no worse than 22nd, no matter what Martin does.
Stewart has won this race twice.
"This is one of those tracks where the driver has to do a lot of work here," Stewart said before Saturday's incident. "Nobody ever has a perfect car here. We won the first two years here and we didn't have a perfect car either race. But we found things that were able to make us a little better than everybody else those first two years, and we kind of had the same thing going last year until we ran out of time and had some tire issues."
Stewart will start sixth Sunday, 28 spots ahead of Martin.
"To be honest, I'm going out to try to win the race tomorrow," Stewart said. "I feel like we've got a good car here. Our track record here has been pretty good. I've said all along, you guys started asking questions like that six or seven weeks ago and my answer has been the same every week, so I'm really surprised that that's the first question today.
"But it's the same as it's always been. We're trying to race to win the race. That's how we got in this position in the points and that's what we're going to do again in week 36 of 36 -- no difference."
For those who know Stewart away from the track, he can be a generous, fun-loving individual with an engaging personality. But the dark side -- the quick temper, obstinate behavior and wiseguy answers -- has portrayed the former Indy Racing League champion as a bad boy.
Stewart could care less that some people get ruffled by his behavior. Privately, however, he has admitted to being stung by the criticism and booing from fans.
But it has not affected his ability on the track, which is why he is on the verge of capturing the biggest prize of his racing career.
"Everybody is going to theorize about this whole season," Stewart said. "All it boils down to is a very simple thing, and there is no rocket science to this. I can get a chalkboard out and put it on there real easy. It's 36 races and whoever does the best job and gets the most points after 36 races is the guy they crown the Winston Cup champion.
"There's no magic to this, there never has been. It's just about going out and gaining as many points in 36 races as possible. There were weeks all year this year where we had a good day and guys in front of us had a bad day. Then it seems like the following week it would be just the opposite. It was like a roller coaster ride."