Smoke clears the air on that whole Australian black eye thing

Sometimes, life just works out perfectly. Nobody had a better story this offseason than Tony Stewart's Rumble Down Under, and guess who was the very first official guest at the very first official press conference of the 2011 season? None other than Smoke himself. And you can guess what the first question was.

"There was an altercation at the racetrack" in Australia, Stewart acknowledged. "It was a dispute between myself and one of the owners of the facility. But as it [was] 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 ... But it's not uncommon to see drivers and track owners have disputes over what's going on, but this one went a little bit further than a normal dispute."

And those reports of a black eye? If he had one, he got a raw steak on it quickly, because as you can see there at right, he was shiner-free. To his credit, Stewart was easygoing and as forthcoming as could be expected. While a few questions covered the expected basics -- thoughts on the new Daytona surface, thoughts on the proposed new points system, blah blah blah -- everyone kept circling back to Australia.

"I'm definitely not proud of what happened, and if I had to do it all over again, I would have dealt with it much different," Stewart finished. "But we had been over there for almost five weeks, and we had been dealing with the same problem with the racetrack, so it wasn't something that was just one incident that led up to it. It was a combination of the whole trip ... You know, I've always been one to speak up for what I think is right, especially when it comes to the safety side of it, and I didn't think the conditions were safe to run on, and they felt differently."

That right there is exactly how you handle a PR crisis: head-on, taking full responsibility, accepting that questions will be asked and must be answered. Nice job. And now he can move on ... until the next time.