On Friday afternoon, NASCAR driver Tony Stewart spoke publicly for the first time since being involved in an on-track incident that killed fellow driver Kevin Ward on Aug. 9. He spoke for just minutes and did not take questions from reporters.
“This has been one of the toughest tragedies I’ve ever had to deal with both professionally and personally,” Stewart said. “This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one ever has to experience in their life.”
Stewart has not raced since the incident, which is still under investigation, but revealed Thursday that he will take part in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“I’ve taken the last couple weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family,” Stewart said. “I think that being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.”
Stewart, who has not been in direct contact with Ward’s family yet but has sent them flowers, said the past two weeks have given him “time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted.” He added he continues to think about and pray for Ward’s family “every day.”
The veteran driver, however, decided not to answer reporters’ questions out of “respect [for the] ongoing investigation process.” He added, “Emotionally, I’m not sure I could answer them anyway… [but] there will be a day when I can sit her and answer your questions.”
Stewart-Haas Racing Vice President Brett Frood did, however, field questions, the most interesting of which was how a still visibly emotional Stewart will be able to handle getting back behind the wheel.
“I think for Tony it’s all about the healing process. It’s part of the healing process being with his family that he’s been with since 1999,” Frood said. “He’s a racer and I think him putting a helmet on will help him cope with this situation.” He added, “I believe it’s going to be an overwhelming process this weekend … [but] I’m quite confident he’ll be able to race the car.”