Less than a week after a fight with an Australian track owner that led to police involvement, a contrite Tony Stewart said he was "very embarrassed" and "ashamed' over what happened on the last night of his five-week trip to that country.
Stewart, at Daytona International Speedway for preseason testing, acknowledged a physical altercation stemming from a dispute with the co-owner of Sydney Speedway over what the two-time NASCAR champion felt were unsafe track conditions.
But he clearly regretted the aftermath of the incident.
"This isn't something I've blown off," he said. "I've lost a lot of sleep over it because I'm very embarrassed that I made it through the whole trip and the night before I come home, I get in an altercation with somebody.
"That hasn't happened in awhile. I'm not the least bit proud of it; I'm ashamed about it."
Reports from Australia said Stewart struck track co-owner Brett Morris in the face with a helmet during their argument; Morris allegedly punched Stewart in return (though Stewart had no visible injuries like a black eye).
A calm Stewart said if he had to do it over again, "I would have dealt with it much differently."
"I'd been over there for almost five weeks and had to deal with the same problem with the racetrack," he said. "It's not one incident that led up to it, it was a combination of the whole trip. It was how they were doing a couple different aspects of preparing the racetrack, and how they were putting the drivers in the situations we were put in.
"I've always been one to speak up for what I think is right, especially when it comes to the safety side of it. I didn't think the conditions were safe to run on – and they felt differently."
The track conditions were unsafe on the final evening of his trip, Stewart said, adding he felt obligated to drive in the heat races because he would lose too many points that night if he sat out.
"It was pretty obvious before we even went out there that it wasn't going to be good," he said. "It was really disappointing because it was the best weather conditions that we had had leading up to that race, and they found a way to get themselves back into a corner again."
Stewart declined to go into specifics about what he told police, but emphasized officers told him he was free to return to his hotel and leave the country the next day. He said police were aware of his hotel information and even the flight number of his return trip to America in case they needed to get in touch with him.
He said he wasn't concerned about possibly having to go back to Australia in the event he faced charges, but said he'd go if it was necessary.
Despite what happened, Stewart said he would "love to" return to Australia and race again.
"We had a good vacation – it was a very relaxing vacation," he said. "I felt like I alleviated a lot of stress over there. Like I said, we just had one bad night in a 30-day trip."