BRISTOL, Tenn.—The pre-race tradition at Bristol Motor Speedway has drivers come out to a song they select beforehand and introduce themselves to the crowd.

Tony Stewart, apparently anxious to get in his car Sunday or irritated with the pomp and circumstance, added a message to his introduction: "At some point, they're actually going to let us drive race cars here, too," he told the crowd.

Not so much.

He was the first driver to have trouble Sunday, crashing nine laps into the race because of an apparent issue with his left rear tire. It might have gone flat because of contact with another driver.

"I felt the tire going down, and I just could not get down to the inside to get to pit road," Stewart said. "I was caught up on the top, and I couldn't hold on to it any longer. It made for a long day, but we got what we could of out it."

Stewart, who was running 13th at the time of the incident, had to go to the garage for repairs. He returned to the track in 41st, but through attrition picked up 10 spots and finished 31st.