The repercussions for the Tony Stewart fracas in Australia may still reverberate, and Australian media is now reporting that not only was the incident more serious than first reported, but that the possibility of formal charges being filed is still a very real possibility.
After spending nearly a month in Australia vacationing and dirt racing, Stewart got into a confrontation with the co-owner of the Parramatta City Raceway Brett Morris, himself a former racer, on the final night of his trip last Saturday. Witnesses reported that Stewart was upset over the condition of the track and threw a helmet at Morris. Morris retaliated with his fist and the two exchanged several blows before being pulled apart.
First reports said Stewart had sustained a cut over his eye but had been questioned and released by police.
But as it turns out the injuries to Morris appear more serious and include a broken eye socket which will require Morris to undergo surgery next week.
It also turns out that Stewart was placed in a patrol car, in the front seat, and then placed in a holding cell at the police station. He was later released and allowed to travel back to the US.
According to one report Stewart was held for a couple of hours in the holding cell ‘to reflect on the benefits of controlling his temper.’
A few days after the incident, Morris was unapologetic.
“I don’t care who Tony Stewart is,” Morris told local media. “If he wants to come to Australia and throw a helmet, he’d better learn to fight.”
Another of the tracks co-owners, Gary Rush said Stewart appeared upset when he arrived at the track which was still wet for rain earlier in the day.
“He was a bit grumpy and this wasn’t helped when he drew the first heat when the track was still quite wet from an afternoon shower,” Rush told local media.
For Stewart’s part, in his first appearance in front of American media since the altercation, at Daytona International Speedway where the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is testing, the two time champion appeared regretful and humble.
“There was an altercation at the racetrack,” Stewart said Thursday. “It was a dispute between myself and one of the owners of the facility. But as it also reported, we went down to the police station, we gave them a statement. They told us after the statement that we were free to go back to the hotel room and free to get on the plane the next day. But definitely wasn’t the way I wanted to end my trip.”
While there had been widespread speculation that no formal charges would be filed over the incident, Morris didn’t seem to rule out further legal action.
“I don’t want to say anything [about the situation relating pressing charges],” said Morris. “I’m sure you understand due process.”
Prior to learning the latest, Stewart said that if he needed to return to Australia to deal with the consequences he would.
“I’m not concerned about it,” Stewart said. “If there is and we have to go back, we’ll deal with it. But it’s nothing that we’re concerned with at this point…We’ll deal with it if anything else comes about.”
In the end Stewart said he felt bad about the incident but was ready to put it behind him by getting back into a racecar.
“I’ve lost a lot of sleep over it because I’m very embarrassed that I made it through a whole trip and the night before I come home I get in an altercation with somebody, and that really hasn’t happened for a while,” he said Thursday. “I’m not at all the least bit proud of it. I’m ashamed about it, but at the same time it’s been nice to get back with the team and it’s nice to come down here and worry about driving the race car again. And it’s not that it’s making me forget about it, but it’s at least getting my mind off of it enough to relax.”