DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Two-time NASCAR champ Tony Stewart said Thursday during a break in preseason testing at Daytona International Speedway that he was "embarrassed" and "ashamed" about an altercation with a race track owner in Sydney, Australia, during the last night of a recent month-long vacation there.
Calm, smiling at reporters and speaking in subdued tones, Stewart sported a near full beard, but showed no signs of a "black eye" that was widely reported by Australian media last weekend. According to the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, Stewart received a black eye in a brief physical altercation between himself and Sydney Speedway co-owner Brett Morris.
Stewart did not reveal the details of the incident, but confirmed he went to a local police station to give a statement and was released with no restrictions on his plans to travel back to the United States the following day. The issue between him and Morris was the condition of the track.
"I've always been one to speak up for what is right, especially when it comes to the safety aspect,''said Stewart, one of 40 drivers participating in a three-day test on Daytona's new $20 million pavement. "It's not uncommon to see drivers and track operators have disputes, but this one went a little farther.''
"I'm definitely not proud of what happened. .... I've lost a lot of sleep over it. I'm embarrassed. I made it all the way through a trip and the last night get in an altercation. I'm ashamed.''
Speaking to reporters for the first time since returning stateside Sunday, Stewart -- owner/driver of the No. 14 Office Depot-Mobil 1 Chevrolet -- said he enjoyed his four-week working vacation in Australia. This is the second consecutive NASCAR off-season Stewart has spent time racing sprint cars in the country and he said Thursday he would love to go back.
There is still some question whether a return trip would come sooner than later. But Stewart said he had received no indication right now that he would be asked to return for further legal action.
"I'm not concerned,'' Stewart said. "If we have to go back, we'll deal with it.''
Then he added, "We just had one bad night out of a 30-day trip.''