Penske to Stewart: Offer still stands
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Team owner Roger Penske wasn't happy with Tony Stewart's comments about one of his drivers Sunday, but not enough to rescind his offer to one day put the three-time Sprint Cup champion in the Indianapolis 500.
"He can always drive at the Indianapolis 500 for me," Penske told ESPN.com late Monday. "We like guys that aren't afraid to speak their peace. That's fine with me."
He can always drive at the Indianapolis 500 for me. We like guys that aren't afraid to speak their peace. That's fine with me.” -- Roger Penske
It wasn't fine with Penske when Stewart went after Joey Logano physically and personally following Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
Stewart cut off Logano's car on pit road, approached the 22-year-old Penske Racing driver angrily and then shoved him to start a scuffle in which Logano retaliated by throwing a water bottle at him.
Stewart later said he was upset that Logano blocked him on the final restart and was involved in a wreck with Denny Hamlin that sent Hamlin to a local hospital with what turned out to be a fractured vertebra in the lower back.
"Dumb little son-of-a-b---- runs us clear down to the infield," Stewart said after the race. "He wants to bitch about everybody else and he's the one who drives like a little b----. I'm going to bust his ass."
Stewart then called Logano "a little rich kid that has never had to work in his life."
Penske noted that Stewart isn't innocent when it comes to blocking, reminding Stewart of causing a 25-car pileup doing just the same thing last fall at Talladega trying to protect the lead on the last lap. Penske also said, "I can tell Tony I've never hired a driver that paid me."
"Obviously this happened at a time when everybody was at a high pitch," Penske added of Sunday's blowup. "That was a comment you have to take with a grain of salt."
Penske wasn't aware that Hamlin had fractured a vertebra until speaking to ESPN.com. He wished the Joe Gibbs Racing driver a speedy recovery and reiterated that comments made by Logano about how Hamlin got what he deserved after wrecking him the previous week at Bristol were made before realizing Hamlin was seriously injured.
"We've got to move on," Penske said. "Let's go racing. It was a great race, probably the best race at California in a long time.
"There was no intent on either one of those guys. They were in the third turn. Joey went low. Hamlin obviously wanted to squeeze him down because he knew Joey would have to slide up. That opened up a two-lane road for Kyle [Busch] [to win].
"Then all hell broke loose."
Much of the "hell" surrounded Stewart confronting Logano, but Penske said it has no bearing on the offer he made at the NASCAR banquet last year to put the owner of Stewart-Haas Racing in the Indianapolis 500.
Stewart turned down the chance to drive in the 500 this year, but said earlier in the year he'd like to accept at some point.
"I'm not putting the hit on Tony at all," said Penske, the winner of a record 15 Indy 500s. "He's a great driver. He's worked hard to get where he is. When you have all this emotion bubbling up, people are focused to win.
"Unfortunately, we had the situation the last lap and everybody knows the result."