It’s been just about a month since NASCAR fans and the media have seen or heard from NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Tony Stewart.
The driver made a re-appearance at the media center at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday to address the press for the first time since the death of Kevin Ward Jr. If you’re used to seeing Stewart in a press conference then wipe those images away because this media event was completely different for the driver.
Stewart was soft spoken and obviously nervous while he talked about the Ward family and their loss. He also stated that he appreciated the support that his friends, family, and team over the last few weeks. One thing that didn’t happen that many were hoping for was the opportunity to ask Stewart questions about the on-track incident that claimed Ward’s life. Stewart spoke about the sadness over the several weeks.
"This has been one of the toughest tragedies I've ever had to deal with both professionally and personally," Stewart said in reading a prepared statement. "This is something that will definitely affect my life forever. This is a sadness and a pain I hope no one ever has to experience in their life. … But I know the pain and mourning Kevin Ward's friends and family are experiencing is something I can't even imagine…. I want to thank all my friends and family for their support."
Touching on Investigation
One question that has been a topic of discussion about the death of Ward when he was struck by Stewart’s car was if the Sprint Cup Series driver would face criminal charges. The Ontario County Police Department in New York State has stated through the sheriff and spokespeople that Stewart was fully cooperating with the investigation.
Stewart briefly touched on the topic of the ongoing investigation only to let reporters know that he would not be able to answer any questions at the time. The driver gave two good reasons on why he could not yet talk about the night that Ward died.
“I understand that all of you have many questions and want a lot of answers,” Stewart said. “However, I need to respect the ongoing investigation process and cannot answer those questions at this time. Emotionally I’m not sure if I could (pause) answer them anyway.”
Driving a race car on any level takes an amazing amount of focus and energy. After watching Stewart today it’s very clear that he’s drained and tired both mentally and physically. The real question at the end of the day is if it’s a good time for Stewart to be sitting behind the wheel of a Sprint Cup race car? According to Stewart he’s in Atlanta for one reason.
It was obvious that Stewart hoped that the press meeting would extinguish any added media attention to his return to the track. He probably hopes that he can blend in as much as possible to avoid added distractions.
“I’m here to race this weekend… and I appreciate your respect,” Stewart said. And, there will be a day when I can answer your questions. Thank you.”