Joe Gibbs praises Tony Stewart’s courage


Joe Gibbs with Denny Hamlin at the Brickyard 400 last month. (Darron Cummings / AP)

If there’s one person who might be helpful to Tony Stewart in the aftermath of the incident in which he ran over and killed a driver during a dirt-track race Aug. 9, it may be his former boss, Joe Gibbs.

Gibbs, who dealt with the tragic death of Sean Taylor when he was coaching the Washington Redskins, said the time hasn’t been right for him to call Stewart, who has been in seclusion since the death of Kevin Ward Jr.

“We all love Tony, we love what he did for us here,” Gibbs said Monday (via USA Today) after an announcement that Joe Gibbs Racing was adding driver Carl Edwards to its NASCAR team. “We know he’s a racer’s racer and he’s big for our sport. I would love to have a chance to speak with him at some point and encourage him.”

Stewart drove for JGR from 1999-2008, winning two Cup titles, and he has long loved returning to his roots and driving in small, dirt-track races — something that was a little vexing for Gibbs.  “I had to spend 30 minutes listening to him how he won a dirt late model race, and I wanted to go, ‘I don’t care, okay?’ ” Gibbs laughed. “But he was so excited. I came to the conclusion that was him — for him to be happy and doing the things that he wanted to do, he was going to be racing.”

Although Stewart broke his leg last summer in a dirt-track crash and was involved in another in which a driver was seriously injured, Gibbs said the Aug. 9 incident was unimaginable.

“None of us dreamed it would happen,” he said. “It did happen, and now you got to go through a process of working through it. But we’re all praying for Tony and want to support him.”

Stewart, who has received a great deal of criticism since the incident, has missed the two NASCAR races since and it is not known whether he might return this weekend in the NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“Tony’s got great courage. He’s smart. He loves this sport. He’s totally focused on it. He doesn’t have distractions,” Gibbs said. “He’s very important to our sport. This is a horrible thing to have happen for the Ward family, for him.”

After spending most of her career in traditional print sports journalism, Cindy began blogging and tweeting, first as NFL/Redskins editor, and, since August 2010, at The Early Lead. She also is the social media editor for Sports.
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