Sunday, December 17, 2017
Sports

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.

Comments
Jets turn tables on Blues at home

Jets turn tables on Blues at home

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Connor Hellebuyck was happy to have a hand in helping the Jets get some payback. Less that 24 hours after Winnipeg was shut out in St. Louis, Hellebuyck made 24 saves as the Jets returned the favor with a 4-0 victory over the Blu...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Monday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballHouston Baptist at Michigan State6 p.m.Big TenNorthern Arizona at USF7 p.m.820-AMNebraska-Omaha at Kansas7 p.m.ESPN2Charleston Southern at FSU7 p.m.ESPNU; 1010-AMNorthern Illinois at Marquette7 p.m.FS1Purdue-Fort Wayne at India...
Updated: 1 hour ago

PITTSBURGH — The Patriots have built a dynasty on second chances. Miss an opportunity to bury the Super Bowl champions and they will find a way to find a way, usually behind a mix of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski and defensive playmaking at just the r...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs-Falcons: Things to watch in Monday’s 8:30 p.m. game

Bucs-Falcons: Things to watch in Monday’s 8:30 p.m. game

TAMPA — The Bucs and Falcons have each won three straight games on Monday nights as they face each other on a national platform tonight at Raymond James Stadium.How can Tampa Bay continue its streak and stop Atlanta’s? It won’t be easy, but given the...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Bucs fans call for Jon Gruden — why was he fired to begin with?

Bucs fans call for Jon Gruden — why was he fired to begin with?

TAMPA — The beers and the "love ya, bros" were flowing Saturday night at the Hooters in Tampa. Jon Gruden, who will be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor at halftime of tonight’s home game against the Falcons, worked the room, greeting family, frie...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Fennelly: Jon Gruden was one hard-working bro

Fennelly: Jon Gruden was one hard-working bro

TAMPA — It’s ridiculous that it took this long to give Jon Gruden a night all his own, given the nights he gave Bucs fans. But it will happen this evening at Raymond James Stadium, a salute to the thermonuclear source of that Super Bowl season, that ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Last-minute run rallies UNC past Vols

Last-minute run rallies UNC past Vols

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — North Carolina passed the kind of road challenge it wanted to face before starting Atlantic Coast Conference competition. Kenny Williams sank a go-ahead 3-pointer with 35 seconds left as the seventh-ranked Tar Heels rallied past No...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Lightning has goalie Peter Budaj’s back after near-collapse

Lightning has goalie Peter Budaj’s back after near-collapse

LAS VEGAS — After the Avalanche made a seemingly insurmountable Lightning lead shaky Saturday night, defenseman Victor Hedman was the first to skate toward backup goalie Peter Budaj and give an encouraging pat on the pads with his stick.Budaj’s stat ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

NFL playoff chase

Playoff chaseNFCPos. Team Rec Div ConfDivision leaders1. Eagles-E-* 12-2 5-0 10-12. Vikings-N-z 11-3 3-1 8-23. Rams-W 10-4 4-1 7-44. Saints-S 10-4 3-1 7-3Wild card5. Panthers 10-4 2-2 6-46. Falcons 8-5 2-1 7-2Contention7. Lions 8-6 4-1 7-48. Seahawks...
Updated: 3 hours ago
David Lee: From ending ugly streaks to title to love match

David Lee: From ending ugly streaks to title to love match

David Lee has not played a home game at Madison Square Garden for nearly eight years, but the memories don’t soon fade once a player has inhaled the rarefied air of life as a Knicks fan favorite. Lee knows this better than most.One stubborn example: ...
Updated: 3 hours ago