Sprint Cup Series rookie Matt DiBenedetto says all is fine now between he and three-time champion Tony Stewart, but that wasn’t the case Friday after the two crossed paths on and off the racing surface at Martinsville Speedway.
During Friday’s lone NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, a relatively innocent-looking run-in between DiBenedetto and Stewart led to some harsh words and further explanation afterward.
The incident occurred when DiBenedetto, a BK Racing driver, tried to merge on the track behind Carl Edwards and the gap closed ahead of him. With Stewart fast approaching down the backstretch, DiBenedetto moved up the track in Turn 3 to let Stewart pass.
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"When I got to (Turn) 3 I didn’t want to hold him up, so I just pulled up high and let him go by," DiBenedetto told FOXSports.com. "I got completely out of his way, but that wasn’t enough. He tried to wreck me a few times, brake-checking me and flipping me off around the whole track."
After the incident, 23-year-old DiBenedetto called Stewart "an arrogant p—k."
"When I got out of the race car and I was pretty upset he tried to wreck me three times. I was pretty frustrated," he said. "We’re a low-budget team here. I have one car here. We don’t have a backup car. Overreacting in that kind of way upset me, to say the least. That’s where my frustration came from, and then I explained the whole situation of what happened and I think he was a little more understanding."
A Stewart spokesman declined to comment on the record about the incident.
Explaining the situation to Stewart afterward, DiBenedetto said the veteran listened to him, and DiBenedetto believes Stewart now understands the situation better.
"He didn’t say a whole lot," DiBenedetto said. "I explained what happened and he didn’t have much to say, since I explained the whole deal. It is what it is. It was kind of dumb, a little bit of an overreaction. It’s all over with now.
"In reality it’s such a small issue. I felt like it was something minor," said DiBenedetto, adding that he was more frustrated for his team than taking it personally. "If I was in his situation I would have kind of blown it off, especially since I made an effort to get out of his way. It is what it is. I guess it’s understandable.
"We’ll just move on."
On Saturday morning, DiBenedetto tweeted about his intentions to do just that — and offered up an apology to Stewart and the entire Stewart-Haas Racing organization.
About yesterday with @TonyStewart I shouldn't have spoken out of anger. I apologize for the inconvenience to all of SHR for the distraction