Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tony Stewart says Kevin Ward's death will affect him forever (w/ video)

HAMPTON, Ga. — Tony Stewart ended nearly three weeks of silence since his race car struck and killed a young driver at an upstate New York dirt track, voicing sympathy Friday for the family of Kevin Ward Jr. and suggesting a return to NASCAR competition this weekend would help him cope with lingering grief.

NASCAR formally welcomed him back for the Oral-B USA 500 on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway even though an investigation into Ward's death from blunt force trauma is ongoing.

At a news conference, Stewart solemnly sat at an elevated table, behind a plastic soda bottle emblazoned with his first name, and read a 21/2-minute statement.

"This has been one of the toughest tragedies I've ever had to deal with, both professionally and personally," Stewart said in a soft voice that quivered throughout. "This is something that will affect my life forever. This is a sadness and pain I hope no one ever has to experience in their life."

Much of the statement was an expression of empathy for Ward's family. Making a point to name Ward's parents and three sisters individually, he acknowledged their suffering: "I want them to know that every day I'm thinking about them and praying for them."

Stewart explained his withdrawal from the past three Sprint Cup races as a desire to display respect for Ward's family and to deal emotionally with the aftermath of the fatality. "It's given me time to think about life," said Stewart, who declined to take questions, "and how easy it is to take for granted."

The hiatus is over, he noted, because "I miss my team, my teammates. I miss being back in the race car. I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time."

NASCAR not only approved Stewart's return but granted a waiver that restores his slender hopes to advance to Sprint Cup's Chase for the Championship.

The Chase format, revamped this year, provides an appeals process for drivers who do not meet all eligibility requirements, one of which is to attempt to qualify for or race in each event at which Chase points are awarded. Stewart's case met the standard for "a very unique set of circumstances" to legitimize the waiver, NASCAR president Mike Helton said.

He must race to his first win Sunday or Sept. 6 in Richmond, Va., to vault above the cutoff line and into the top 16 qualifiers.

Tony Stewart, left, spoke for first time Friday since he hit and killed driver Kevin Ward Jr. on Aug. 9.

Tony Stewart, left, spoke for first time Friday since he hit and killed driver Kevin Ward Jr. on Aug. 9.

Tony Stewart says Kevin Ward's death will affect him forever (w/ video) 08/29/14 [Last modified: Friday, August 29, 2014 9:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, New York Times.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. College World Series: Gators, LSU face off in all-SEC finals


    OMAHA, Neb. — The matchup for the College World Series finals bolsters the case for those who say the best baseball in the land is played in the SEC.

    Florida’s Brady Singer, delivering during a CWS win over Louisville last week, is scheduled to start tonight against LSU.
  2. Jones: Fox Sports Sun shows depth in Rays coverage

    TV and Radio

    tom jones' two cents

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) makes a run home for a score in the in the final game of a three-game series between the Tampa Bay Rays and AL East rival the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, June 25, 2017.
  3. Brian Boyle says returning to Lightning a 'huge option'


    As former Lightning forward Brian Boyle approaches free agency this week, he said he's trying to stay busy.

    Former Tampa Bay Lightning player center Brian Boyle (24), on the ice during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa on March 16, 2017.
  4. Rays journal: Blake Snell to rejoin rotation, Erasmo Ramirez heads to bullpen

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Blake Snell is rejoining the Rays' rotation, but the move has as much to do with helping the bullpen as it does with Snell's improvement during his time at Triple-A Durham.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Erasmo Ramirez (30) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday, June 21, 2017 in St. Petersburg.
  5. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.