By his own account, Tony Stewart was looking forward to his second year in a row of spending his NASCAR off season down under. Unfortunately, this year’s Australian adventure did not turn out quite as Stewart had planned.
[media-credit name=”Barry Albert” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]”Last year was a first for me,” Stewart said. “I spent three weeks down in Australia racing and having fun. Best thing I could’ve ever done.”
Stewart had an excellent adventure last off season, with his World of Outlaws driver companion and tour guide Donny Schatz. Both Stewart and Schatz spent their time in Australia sight seeing, as well as fitting just a bit of racing into the mix.
“I ended up racing four nights,” Stewart said. “We had planned for five nights, but one of the races got rained out.”
Stewart deemed himself “terrible” the first night out racing last year. “The second night I was a little better but not much,” Stewart said. “We got better every night so that was the biggest thing for me.”
In fact, Stewart had such a great time last year that he decided to return to Australia in the most recent off season, this time for a month. His plans were to leave December 15th, 2010 and return on January 15th, 2011, just in time to do some NASCAR testing on the new surface at Daytona.
“It’ll be fun,” Stewart predicted of his time down under this off season. “I’ll come back tan, relaxed and ready for Daytona.”
Unfortunately, Stewart’s time in Australia was not at all relaxing and he ended up leaving what he thought would be his off season paradise with a cloud of trouble hanging over his head. The problems came after an altercation allegedly between Stewart and the Sydney Speedway co-owner Brett Morris over a disagreement about the track conditions.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Stewart threw his helmet at Morris after fighting over the track conditions at the Sydney Speedway. Reportedly Morris retaliated by giving Stewart a shiner to take back to Daytona.
Stewart was also reportedly detained for a short time by the local police for questioning. After his questioning, he was then released for his flight back home to the United States.
“Tony was simply questioned about the alleged incident, and after the questioning, he returned to his hotel, got a good night’s rest and is currently en route to the States,” Mark Arning, a spokesperson for Stewart told ESPN.com. Also according to Arning, “No charges were filed.”
Ironically, although Stewart left with a blackened eye, his driver Donny Schatz, ending up winning Saturday night’s race in Australia. This was Schatz’s sixth career win in his Australian racing career. He has four World of Outlaws titles under his belt as well.
Stewart has had his share of anger management issues in the past. In fact, earlier in his career as far back as his rookie year, Stewart was mixing it up with other drivers on and off the track.
In 2002, Stewart had a much-publicized disagreement with a photographer at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Although he was put on probation by NASCAR, Stewart went on that year to win his first Cup championship.
Stewart’s volatility on and off the track continued. In the years following, Stewart had altercations with drivers like Brian Vickers, that resulted in a fine and more NASCAR probation, as well as some serious disagreements with the likes of Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, and Kyle Busch.
In 2008, Stewart got into it with an official at a USAC race. He pulled the headset off of one official’s head and then shoved another official who had the misfortune of trying to talk with him about the prior incident. Stewart was fined and had to pay restitution to both officials for their equipment and gear.
Since that time, a different, calmer and seemingly wiser Stewart has seemingly emerged. This “new” Stewart appeared on the surface to be more at peace after moving back home, purchasing Eldora Speedway, and becoming a NASCAR team owner.
Yet apparently, the old demons have continued to plague Stewart. Or perhaps the track owner in Stewart simply got the better of him and he just had to object to what he deemed inadequate conditions at the Sydney Speedway.
Either way, Stewart may be tanned but certainly not relaxed as he wings his way to Daytona testing. And he certainly will need to continue to battle his aggression demons as he bids Australia adieu and returns to rev his engines in preparation for the start of the NASCAR 2011 season.