Get the latest Tony Stewart news, media, stats, and standings for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver only on the official site of NASCAR.
Get the latest Tony Stewart news, media, stats, and standings for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver only on the official site of NASCAR.
Tony Stewart and Kyle Larson tour MacDill Air Force Base and get a tutorial on what takes place on the base.
Once an outlet, does racing provide same comfort? RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated The news on that Sunday morning shocked the NASCAR world, and soon the rest of the country was horrified, too. In a dirt-track race in upstate New York, Tony Stewart struck and killed another driver. From beginning to end, the Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy was unprecedented. Even with racing's history of being cloaked in death, nothing like this had ever happened. Ward crashed after contact with Stewart . He left his wrecked car and walked down the track to confront Stewart while Stewart turned laps under caution. Stewart's car hit Ward, and he died a short time later at a hospital. That happened late on Aug. 9, a Saturday night. By Sunday morning, video of the accident had been posted on YouTube. The tragic death was bad enough. The attacks on Stewart were dark and disturbing, too. It was as if people on social media took sides on a story that had no sides. They seemed to decide they couldn't mourn for Ward and feel empathy for Stewart at the same time. All of which made this the worst story of this (and almost any other) season. The "sports as escape" idea is a cliché that also happens to be true. Drivers, football players, baseball players, whomever, all speak of the field of play as a respite from the pressures of everyday life. But what if that field of play is also the source of those pressures? It seemed impossible Stewart would find any calm when he climbed back into his No. 14 Sprint Cup Chevy for the first time in Atlanta after missing three races. He was dealing with crushing guilt and grief. What difference could racing make with pain like that, considering racing caused the pain? But there Stewart was, taking the first laps in the restart of his life. All of his fellow competitors welcomed him back, and many of them said getting in the car would be a key step for him in his healing process. Stewart seemed to think that, too, if for no other reason than being in the car would give him something else to think about, something else to do for a few hours. Stewart remained composed while reading a prepared statement in front of the media, but it was obvious that he was a mess, that grief still gripped him. He looked broken, pale, washed out, like he hadn’t slept since the accident. He looked like a man wondering what he should do with the rest of his life. Stewart normally lives his life in NASCAR’s public eye, but he nearly disappeared after Ward’s death. He looked and sounded much better when he took questions from reporters on Sept. 29 than he did in Atlanta. He looked better still when he was interviewed after the fall race at Martinsville, his only top-five after his return. He had been invisible for so long that his sudden appearance on TV to talk about having a fast car was almost jarring. When Stewart -Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick won the Sprint Cup championship, Stewart joined the celebration and the postrace press conference. "There's a lot of things I would love to change about the last 18 months of my life, but tonight is not one of them," Stewart said. "I'm going to enjoy this moment." What's next for Stewart ? Nobody knows. On and off the track, his life remains unsettled. He has said he probably won't race in sprint cars again, and that seems like a wise move, considering the August accident and a previous one that left him with a broken leg that caused him to miss 15 races last season. His average finish in Cup races in 2014 was 20.0, the worst of his career by nearly four positions. He went winless for the first time, and it's fair to ask (and impossible to answer) how much of his struggles were tied to the Ward accident. He wasn't having a good season before Ward's death, and he was even worse after. There are questions off the track, too. He could face a civil suit from Ward's family. Perhaps the only closure so far came when the criminal case ended. Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo sent the case to a grand jury, which declined to pursue charges against Stewart . In announcing that, Tantillo also said Ward had marijuana in his system at a level high enough to impair his judgment. In the court of public opinion, that closed the case. With the absence of charges, the public moved on quickly. But Stewart didn't. He said several times that the tragedy would follow him for the rest of his life. Racing had brought Stewart the greatest joys of his life. Now it has wrought his greatest sorrow. SUBSCRIBE NOW!
Nos. 4, 14 teams to keep lineups that finished last season
'Smoke' sets Texas track record and makes NASCAR history in second round RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today FORT WORTH, Texas -- For the first time in NASCAR history a driver topped 200 mph in a qualifying lap on a 1.5-mile track, and it was Tony Stewart who did the honors in the second of three rounds of qualifying on Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway . Stewart set the track qualifying record with a lap of 200.111 mph, breaking the previous record of 198.282 mph set by Kevin Harvick in April of 2014. The man known as 'Smoke' lit up the leaderboard with the lap of 26.985 seconds and gained the attention of Chase drivers such as Coors Light Pole Award winner Matt Kenseth . "I never dreamed we'd see a lap time like that around here unless they paved it," Kenseth said. "It's incredibly fast." For Stewart it was a highlight in a difficult season, and it came on the heels of a top-five finish at Martinsville. That was Stewart's first top-five since March at Auto Club Speedway , and combined with the good qualifying run gives Stewart something to build on as he looks towards the 2015 season. Stewart was surprised when he broke the 200-mph barrier, saying over the radio, "Didn't look that fast." Although he set the record in the second round, Stewart ended up qualifying sixth and will share Row 3 with teammate Kevin Harvick for the start of Sunday's AAA Texas 500 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN). He expressed some regret about not being able to hit the top speed in the third round of qualifying but was still pleased with the record. "It is always cool to be the first guy to be able to do anything," Stewart said. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Chili Bowl winner earns NASCAR K&N Pro Series East ride MORE: Abreu inks deal for K&N Pro Series East ride " Home Tracks Competing in NASCAR wasn't on Rico Abreu's radar a year ago, but that was before the youngster began racing and winning sprint car races all across the country. Now, the 22-year-old, fresh off a huge win in Saturday night's Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, begins preparations for his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East debut next month at New Smyrna (Florida) Speedway. He is one of five drivers scheduled to compete in the K&N Pro Series for HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks, joining William Byron, J.J. Haley, Scott Heckert and Dalton Sargeant. "Last year it wasn't," Abreu said of the roadmap to NASCAR, "until I had all my success. I set goals last year that I never thought I would achieve, and I achieved them." Abreu, who began competing in sprint cars in 2011, competed in more than 100 open-wheel races across various series. He posted 26 victories across 410 winged and non-winged sprint cars, 360 winged sprints and USAC midget competition. He captured the 2014 USAC Honda Midget Series national title in November. "At the end of last year the discussion came up," he said. "The opportunity was there and I said, 'why don’t we give it a shot?' Because I can always come back to sprint car racing if NASCAR doesn't work out or (I'm) not competitive." With triple-digit starts and much success during each of the past two seasons, Abreu said he believes he can be just as competitive in a stock car as he has proven to be in an open-wheel ride. "I feel I will be competitive with all the experience I've already gained racing 100 times a year," he said. "I’m on the same path as a lot of these NASCAR standouts were on. I'm pretty confident about all of it; I'm just really excited to see what happens in the next few months." Those "NASCAR standouts" are well known – Tony Stewart , Jeff Gordon and Kyle Larson , each coming from the open-wheel ranks as well. It was Larson, the 22-year-old phenom who drives for Chip Ganassi Racing in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, that helped pave the way for Abreu in sprints. "I always knew he'd probably end up in NASCAR," Larson said Tuesday. "I think he's going to do a really great job. He's winning every big race out there right now and I think he'll take to stock cars well." And Stewart , the three-time Sprint Cup champion, has already offered to help make sure that there are no snags as Abreu attempts to run the full 14-race K&N Pro Series East schedule while continuing to compete in open-wheel entries. "I'm planning on racing 120 times this year and as many as I can get in," Abreu said. "I was talking to Tony at the Chili Bowl and I told him there was a conflict where the K&N guys are at Dover and there are three sprint car races at Williams Grove (Pennsylvania.). He said 'don't worry about that; I'll get you there.' So it's pretty cool that I've got Tony behind me on all this and Kyle; it just allows me to race even more than I was already planning." Crew chief Mardy Lindley, who helped guide Dylan Kwasniewski to six wins and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East title in '13, will oversee Abreu's No. 98 team. "I’m on the same path as a lot of these NASCAR standouts were on." -- Rico Abreu
Timeline, full coverage of the Tony Stewart incident Sept. 24: No charges against Stewart A grand jury deliberated for less than an hour and determined there would be no indictment for Tony Stewart . " Read the full story Sept. 24: Stewart releases statement In a statement released after the grand jury findings, Tony Stewart reiterated his thoughts are with the family of Kevin Ward Jr. " Read the full story Sept. 24: NASCAR statement on Stewart decision Brett Jewkes, NASCAR Chief Communications Officer, on Ontario (N.Y.) County District Attorney announcement. " Read the full story Sept. 16: Ontario County D.A. to send evidence to grand jury The Ontario County (New York) District Attorney will send evidence from the Kevin Ward Jr.- Tony Stewart investigation to a grand jury. The evidence will be presented in "the near future." " Read the full story Sept. 11: Investigation into Ward's death complete The Ontario County (New York) Office of the Sheriff announced that the investigation into the death of Kevin Ward Jr. has been complete. " Read the full story Aug. 31: Stewart exits after blown tire Tony Stewart's return to the track came to an early end after a blown tire finished his night at Atlanta Motor Speedway . " Read the full story Aug. 30: Sponsor issues statement of support for Stewart Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, released a statement of support for Tony Stewart on Saturday. Bass Pro Shops serves as a primary sponsor for Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet. " Read the full story Aug. 29: Stewart addresses media at Atlanta Tony Stewart addressed the media for the first time since the tragic sprint car incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park . " Read the full story Aug. 29: Helton: Stewart eligible for Chase NASCAR President Mike Helton said that if Tony Stewart wins one of the final two regular-season races, then he would be eligible to make the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff. " Read the full story Aug. 29: Harvick, Danica react to Stewart's return Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick , two of Tony Stewart 's teammates at Stewart -Haas Racing, are glad to have him back at the track and will be there for their friend and team co-owner. " Read the full story Aug. 29: Investigation still ongoing Ontario County (New York) Sheriff Philip Povero released a statement Friday, saying the investigation into the death of Kevin Ward Jr. is at least two weeks away from concluding. " Read the full statement Aug. 28: Stewart will return at Atlanta After missing three races following the tragic sprint car accident involving Kevin Ward Jr., Tony Stewart announced he will return to the track this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway . " Read the full story Aug. 25: Zipadelli, SHR go on without Stewart Stewart -Haas Racing Vice President of Competition Greg Zipadelli doesn't know when Tony Stewart will return, but he is grateful for the impact Jeff Burton has had on the No. 14 team. " Read the full story Aug. 20: Stewart out for Bristol Tony Stewart will not race at Bristol and will once again be replaced by Jeff Burton in the No. 14 Chevrolet. " Read the full story Aug. 15: Team: Decision on when to return is Stewart's Stewart -Haas Racing Executive Vice President Brett Frood told reporters that when Stewart returns to the No. 14 is up to the driver, who is currently grieving along with support of family and friends. " Read the full story Aug. 19: Joe Gibbs speaks on Stewart Joe Gibbs won two titles and 33 races with Tony Stewart from 1999-2008. The team owner was asked about 'Smoke' on Tuesday, and Gibbs explained why the driver is so important to the sport. " Read the full story Aug. 17: Harvick: '( Stewart ) will stay strong and fight' Following his second-place effort at Michigan, Kevin Harvick talked about the difficult week that Stewart -Haas Racing has had. " Read the full story Aug. 15: Burton to fill in for Stewart at Michigan Sprint Cup veteran Jeff Burton has been called up by SHR to drive the No. 14 at Michigan as Stewart continues to grieve the loss of Ward. " Read the full story Aug. 14: Stewart out for Michigan Tony Stewart will not race at Michigan in the Pure Michigan 400 . Instead, 21-time Cup winner Jeff Burton will fill-in in the No. 14 Chevrolet. " Read the full story Aug. 12: Racing or not, Stewart will not forget Ward Kenny Bruce column: Fatal incident at dirt track will stay with three-time champion. " Read the full story Aug. 11: Stewart cancels plans to race on dirt Tony Stewart will not race at Plymouth Speedway on Saturday night, August 16, the Indiana dirt track announced in a statement. " Read the full story Aug. 10: SHR: Stewart will not race at Watkins Glen Tony Stewart will not race in the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen after an incident Saturday night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. " Read the full story Aug. 10: NASCAR statement on Kevin Ward Jr., Tony Stewart Sanctioning body offers thoughts and prayers to family of deceased. " Read the full story Aug. 10: Sheriff news conference details Stewart incident Ontario County (New York) Sheriff Philip C. Povero comments on events at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. " Read the full story Aug. 10: Smith to drive for Stewart at Watkins Glen Regan Smith will pilot the No. 14 as Tony Stewart will not race Sunday at Watkins Glen after an incident Saturday night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. " Watch the video Aug. 10: Statement from Stewart on fatal accident Three-time Sprint Cup champ: 'There aren't words to describe the sadness I feel...' " Read the statement Aug. 10: Further Stewart investigation details revealed Sheriff Philip Povero offered more info regarding the investigation. " Read the full story Aug. 10: Smith shares struggles of filling in for Stewart Stewart's fill-in Regan Smith speaks out on his day at the Glen and the challenges of racing the No. 14. " Read the full story Aug. 10: Allmendinger offers tribute to fallen racer Drivers react to Stewart incident, Allmendinger sends thoughts and prayers to family, Stewart . " Read the full story Aug. 9: Stewart involved in fatal sprint car accident The three-time Sprint Cup Series champion was racing at Canandaigua Motorsports Park when an incident he was involved in left another driver with fatal injuries. " Read the full story
Read complete text of Stewart's first Q-and-A with reporters since incident RELATED: Stewart answers questions for first time " Stewart timeline THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Mike Arning, Director of Communications for Stewart -Haas Racing and want to say thank you for your time this morning. We'll introduce Tony Stewart and start off with any questions you may have. Q. Tony , since the accident, when you think of Kevin Ward, Jr., what comes to mind? TONY STEWART : Honestly, before the accident I didn't know Kevin. I don't even know how many times I had raced with him. I race with that group a couple times a year. They've always been a great group to race with, but I didn't know him. Obviously, after the accident I've read a lot about him, and from what I've read, I think he had a really promising career as a sprint car driver. It sounded like he was doing a good job and learning a lot at a young age, so I think he had a lot to look forward to. Q. Do you want to and need to talk to the Ward family to have any sort of closure? If so, can you talk to him or will it be years before all the legal stuff is done before you can talk to them? TONY STEWART : You know, I think at this point it's -- I want to be available to them if they want to talk about it. At this point, I don't need to talk to them for closure. I know what happened, and I know it was an accident, but I'm offering to talk to them to help them, if it helps them with closure. So I said it when we were in Atlanta, and I still believe that I want to be available to them if and when they ever want to talk. Q. On the topic of closure, at some point the focus will turn back to your career as a race car driver. Have you thought about when or how that can happen? TONY STEWART : Well, I mean, we've been racing since Atlanta, obviously, but it's not been business as usual by any means, and this is going to be a healing process for me. It makes you think about a lot of things other than driving race cars, but the one thing that's probably helped me more than anything is being back at the race track and being around my racing family and remembering that I have a passion for what I do. So that's probably helped me more than anything when it's come to trying to make that next step to move forward. Q. If you could do anything differently over the past couple months, what would it be? TONY STEWART : I'd have stayed at Watkins Glen that night. You know, I do this stuff and I go run those cars to have a good time and that's all I wanted to do that night. I wanted to go have fun. I had just spent the week at Knoxville, and it gives you the edge and desire to want to go race. It wasn't a big paying race for sprint car standards. I just wanted to go run my sprint car for a night. I do it to have fun, and it didn't end up being fun that night. Q. How have you been spending the time since the accident happened, and will your routine change now that you've been exonerated? TONY STEWART : Since we went back to Atlanta, basically, I go from the motorhome to the car, and the car to the trailer, and the trailer back to the car, and that's literally all I've done since I came back. Even after Wednesday here in Charlotte , I haven't left my house. It's just an awkward feeling. I think now I'll start doing some more things. I mean, I've got a lot of friends who have been supportive through this entire thing, and there are a lot of people that have shown how much they cared and it would be nice to go and visit and talk to those people again. Q. Have you reconsidered or considered stopping driving sprint cars as a result of this and your injury the year before? TONY STEWART : At this point I don't really have -- I'm not going to say I'm never going to get in one. But when I got hurt, it was as soon as I got healed and as soon as things got settled in with the Cup car I was set that I was wanting to get in one, but right now I wouldn't even be able to give you a small idea of if and when I'll ever get back in a car. So at this point I won't be in one for a while. Q. The life of a driver and an owner is extremely busy. Press conferences, commercials, appearances, fan things, you haven't done -- have you done much of that? When will you think you'd get back to that life? TONY STEWART : I haven't done any since the accident. I think after talking with you guys today we'll start getting back into doing meet and greets and appearances again. I think it's important for me to do that and to take -- I think that's another step of making forward progress is getting back to trying to resume what was the best of a normal life before this. I think it's important for me to do that and get back to doing it as soon as possible. Q. What has been the biggest change within you and the biggest impact upon you as a result of this past month and a half? TONY STEWART : I honestly think that when you're -- and I'm not going to speak for professional athletes in different forms of sports, but as a race car driver, driving a race car is all that consumed my life. It's all I thought about, it's all I cared about, and everything else was second on down the list of priorities for me. I think this has given me the opportunity to sit here and think about other aspects of my life and what they're going to mean to me in the future. Not that I don't love what I do, because I do love it, but it's not -- just like you guys, it's not what we do all the time. There are more things to our life than what we have as a profession. So it's made me think about some of those other aspects of my life that kind of have been put on hold for years. Q. How would you characterize the weeks at home, Tony , following the accident? You basically were in seclusion. What was that like for you to go through that and what did you do? TONY STEWART : I didn't really do much of anything to be perfectly honest. I think the first three days that I was home I really didn't do anything. I didn't get out of bed. I didn't care if I took a shower. I left my room to go get food, and that you almost had to make yourself eat. It's the first three or four days I didn't want to talk to anybody. Didn't want to see anybody, I just wanted to be by myself. You finally get up and you finally start moving around a little bit and every day got a little bit easier, but it was a big, drastic change from what I was used to, for sure, not having the desire to do anything. All you thought about is what happened and asking yourself why. Why did this happen? So you just sat there for entire days on end asking questions and trying to come to terms with what happened and why it happened. Q. I was at Loudon a couple weeks ago and Jimmie Johnson talked about how people are starting to take sides, and I'm wondering during this process if things coming out on Twitter or people making comments in the media, did you keep yourself insulated from that or did you follow any of that? How did that impact the time that you were at the track? TONY STEWART : I tried to do my best to insulate myself from that. But I finally started reading what was out there and what people were saying, and you didn't control that. Last Wednesday the facts came out and people still through the weekend, some people that had the same opinion before the facts came out still have the same opinion, no matter what side they think about. To me it's worthless to pick sides. A young man lost his life, and I don't care what side you're on, it doesn't change that. His family's in mourning. I'm in mourning. My family is in mourning. Picking sides isn't solving or fixing anything. It's a waste of time to pick sides. Instead of honoring a young man that had a promising racing career, people are picking sides and throwing -- it's like watching people throw darts at each other. It's disappointing at this point, honestly, because instead of supporting each other and the racing community is such a strong family, that it's dividing people that on a daily basis would help each other. There is no point in it. It doesn't solve anything. It doesn't fix anything. At the end of the day, it's not going to make anybody feel any better about it. It's just people that -- everybody's entitled to their opinion, and we know that. But everybody, and I've seen this for the last seven weeks now, everybody has made their decision and picked their side off of 100 percent of the information that they got, which is about 10 percent of all the information that's truly out there. And we all do it. Our society does it. We do it every day. Whatever we see on the news we make our decision as people about what we see. But it's not -- I don't think any of us any day whatever topic we're trying to come to a conclusion about, ever get all the facts. So you understand why people think the way they do, but I think more than not, I don't think people realize that there is more information out there than what we all get on a daily basis about whatever it is. Q. (No Microphone)? TONY STEWART : I guess it was more disappointing to me than anything. Even from people that were supportive of us. I mean, listened and reading comments about the sheriff's department and the district attorney, they did a good job of taking the time that they needed to do to get all the facts and to come to a very thought out conclusion of this. You want to sit there and tell people, hey, let them do their job. But it just shows how passionate people are. I mean, if they are on our side or on Kevin's family's side, they were passionate about that. That's something I don't want to see go away. I don't want to see people lose their passion, but I think people need to understand that there are a lot more facts that they didn't understand and haven't seen. Q. Tony , obviously the season is moving on. Yesterday Kevin Harvick , great run, Kurt Busch , not as great. How much have you let yourself be engaged in that side of the process right now as far as being the Stewart of Stewart -Haas Racing? TONY STEWART : I've let my team down from that standpoint. I haven't been able to -- I've been a little bit of a cheerleader, but that's about all I've been able to contribute here the last seven weeks. It's just, like I mentioned earlier, it's been hard for me to function day-to-day. There hasn't been anything normal about my life the last seven weeks, so it's been very hard to try to do anything to be productive to help those guys. You try to be a cheerleader, you try to keep them pumped up about what they're do being, but other than that, I haven't been able to contribute too much. Q. Just wondering, you talk about being in seclusion and all that that's meant. What does today represent for you having us all here? You called us all here together. What does today represent for you in terms of going forward? TONY STEWART : We knew everybody had questions and we knew that everybody was going to want answered to what's going on. But I think more than anything we wanted to be able to tell everything from the beginning. But it's, like I learned Wednesday, everybody's got their opinions about what happened. Obviously, the facts didn't matter to a lot of those people. They still had their opinions one way or the other. We haven't let anybody know what's been going on the last six weeks. We just kind of went through the motions as far as we're concerned, and we knew a lot of you would have questions about what's been going on the last six or seven weeks and how have we handled it. Q. What was it like to learn from the district attorney that in the toxicology report, Kevin Ward was under the influence? TONY STEWART : Honestly, for me, it didn't change anything. To me a young driver lost his life. Didn't matter why or what was going on. The end result was the same. No matter what was said, it was still a tragic accident. I just know in my heart that it was a hundred percent an accident; that detail didn't mean anything to me personally. Q. You mentioned earlier the awkward feeling that's come over you the past several weeks. Can you explain that a little more? Also, talk about will that ever go away given that Kevin Ward has passed away and that will not change? TONY STEWART : It's just been awkward because I know what a typical day was like for me and the things that were on my agenda for each day and what I thought about you kind of get in that pattern. This was something that obviously changed that pattern drastically. Everything you thought about, everything you worked on, you stop thinking about. You stopped working on, and this is all you thought about. Ask me the second part again. Q. Do you think that will eventually go away? TONY STEWART : I think it will. The reason I say that is I've had other people that I've known for years that have come to me and told me personal stories of tragedies that have happened in their life that a lot of us don't know about. Their experiences and their advice really has hit home for me. I do believe as time goes on it will be different every day. It may. I don't know if it will ever get back to normal, but it will get better. Q. Since getting back in a car, rate your performance as a driver? TONY STEWART : I could rate a before and after almost the same. My year hasn't been a stellar year by any means. When we came back, we had a decent day started in Atlanta, and had an incident that derailed it. But I think yesterday was probably the best overall race from start to finish that we've run. Probably one of the best ones this year that we've actually run. I struggled on restarts. I couldn't get going very good the first three or four laps, but it seemed like after 10 laps or 15 laps we were settling into a pace that was a top-5 race car. So we didn't have any major dramas on either side during the whole race. We actually put a whole race together. I know the 14th- or 15th-place finish isn't anything to brag about, but considering where our season has been, we finally put together a whole day that was consistent, and that meant a lot to us. Q. Tony , it's kind of a follow-up, Doug asked you about your NASCAR involvement with Stewart -Haas Racing. Your short track industry, your empire with Eldora and your USAC teams, and the World of Outlaw teams, what's that been like for you over the last seven weeks? TONY STEWART : I've watched and paid attention to what was going on, but I haven't been engaged in it. I've watched our races that we had online at Eldora. I've watched the sprint car races online and listened to them online, but haven't been engaged with the teams, haven't been engaged with the drivers. Just kind of been an non-deal. Q. I don't know quite how to phrase this, but racing inherently is a dangerous sport. You've seen guys get killed in accidents over the years. If this would have been a situation where you guys were racing and he crashed, and he perished in the crash, would it be something you would feel different about? Or does the nature of him coming out on the track, did that change at all for you? Does that make sense? TONY STEWART : Yeah, it does. For me, I don't think it would change anything. I've worked really hard, especially when I got hurt last year, while I was healing, I spent all that time trying to defend sprint car racing and help -- try to help other drivers through the off-season. I do it because I'm passionate about it and I love it. We all know what can happen every time we get in a race car, whether it's an IndyCar, stock car, sprint car. Anybody that races anything knows what that is and what that danger is and what can happen. I've had close friends die in race cars. I've had teammates die in race cars, and there is nothing easy about it. Like I said, the racing community is a very close-knit family. Anytime you lose somebody in that family, there are drivers and team owners and crew members from other sports that may not have ever met that driver but feel for that family and that driver in their tragedy. So no matter what the circumstances, the end result is something that nobody ever wants to see. Like I said, I've spent a lot of time trying to defend it and try to help promote the sport, and none of us want that to happen to anybody under any circumstances. Q. This is a secondary thing, but it will be important if it hasn't been already, how are you dealing with sponsors? How are you talking to sponsors about moving forward and what kind of concerns do you have about them being loyal to the team after this? TONY STEWART : It's a legitimate question, for sure. Our organization has stayed in close contact with the sponsors through this whole ordeal, and I've been able to talk to a couple of them as well. Johnny Morris was one of the people that came to my house to see me while I was in Indiana. We spoke to people from Mobil 1, and they came to see us the last couple weeks at the race track. The support from them has been amazing. It's obviously a tough circumstance for anybody to be a part of it, for a corporation to be part of it as well, but they've been very supportive through this whole process. I can't speak to what the future will be for them. They've been supportive to this point and that's something I've been very grateful for. Q. First of all, welcome back. Glad to see you. Following up a little on what Steven said. You own sprint car teams and own tracks and specifically Eldora. It was almost a therapy for you to get to go up and ride around on a four-wheeler and get the shoes dirty and the hands dirty. Has this incident taken away from the cleansing properties of that therapy? Do you think you'll ever be able to ride Eldora in the four-wheeler and feel the same again? TONY STEWART : I'm sure I will. It's just not right now. That's an important aspect of my life and something that's very important to me. Right now at this moment today there are other things that are important to me right now, and they still are. But I'm not ready to go do that yet. Going around in a Cup car right now is important to me, and the great thing Eldora and the dirt track teams and our drivers that do great things there, and that's given me -- afforded me the time to think about what I need to do right now. Q. You talked briefly about your race yesterday. It's been the best race you've had in your five back. Is there any correlation personally in how you performed yesterday to being able to move forward in the decision Wednesday? TONY STEWART : I really don't know if it does or not, to be honest. Honestly, at the race track on Friday and Saturday we struggled. Our qualifying effort was the best that I qualified at Dover in a long time, but we really struggled in practice leading up to that, and Saturday all day we struggled. I thought Chad and the engineers did a good job Saturday night of taking all the information they learned on both days, and I could tell right off the bat on Sunday that the car was quite a bit different than the rest of the weekend. I don't think it had anything to do with that, honestly. I think getting back in the car every time I've gotten in there, it's given me a chance to focus again, and that's something that I've needed as a diversion. But I think from the time that I went back to Atlanta, the first session there the car felt really good, and we had a good weekend in Atlanta until it got derailed. But I think at this point in my career as a driver, when you make that decision to put the helmet on you have to know in your heart that you're ready to go, you're ready to do it, and I felt comfortable in the car from Day 1. Q. You're a championship level driver on the track, and sort of a larger-than-life figure off of it, which is responsible for all of this. Can you get back to that person that you were, that gregarious, likeable sort of guy, or is it going to be a while that you're that personality that fans have been drawn to all these years? TONY STEWART : I think the support we've had from our fans, I don't know if they even care if we get back to that. They're just happy that we're back right now, and that's been very comforting for us and for me. I've really appreciated their support and how they've helped welcome me back to the track. It's hard to say to be honest. I appreciate the fact that you said I was a nice guy. This is a process that's day-to-day. You take it one day at a time. Before the accident happened, a day would fly by, and now a day seems like two or three days. The clock seems like the batteries are running low on the clock. I honestly think every day things will get better, and things will get easier, and I think it will for Kevin's family as well. Time heals. Like I said, I don't know that it will ever be normal again, but we'll find a place to settle into and we'll do the best we can like we have to this point. Whether I ever get back to that or not, hopefully through this I will somehow be a better person. That's all I can hope for. Q. Until last Wednesday, there was the very real possi
Reaction from the track in light of driver's return RELATED: Full coverage of Tony Stewart incident " Harvick: 'I'm just happy to have my friend back' The NASCAR community welcomed Tony Stewart back to the Sprint Cup Series garage Friday in preparation for his first on-track competition in three weeks. Stewart , a three-time champion of NASCAR's top series, sat out the past three races as he mourned the death of 20-year-old driver Kevin Ward Jr., who was struck by Stewart's sprint car during an Aug. 9 sprint-car event in Canandaigua, New York. A sampling of reactions from drivers and others in the NASCAR community: "We all feel for him going through what he's going through to work through this tragic accident, but you know what, he'll get there and we'll be here to help." -- Danica Patrick , teammate at Stewart -Haas Racing "We all can't imagine what he has to go through and still goes through, but I'm sure for him, it's going to be good therapy to get back in the race car. I mean, when you're sitting in that seat and you're going around a race track, that's all you're thinking about. You have to have all your focus on that. We all support him and obviously love having him back." -- Denny Hamlin , former teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing "I think it's very important that … our core media obviously understands who Tony Stewart is and understand the emotions and different things that come with our sport … and as I've watched and been very frustrated through a lot of this situation, you get outside of our core media and the perception is tough to see and listen to. For me, it's very important for those people to understand that our sport is just like other sports. There's a lot of emotion involved in what we do and you see those highlight reels of people throwing stuff and, in this particular case, Tony throwing stuff or getting mad and saying things and getting into the heat of the moment. You can make that highlight reel for all of us, or most of us, with that emotion attached to it. It's tough to see and hear the things that are being tossed that way and toward him and you just want to make sure that when it's reported on, it's reported upon fairly and correctly." -- Kevin Harvick , teammate at Stewart -Haas Racing "The only healing I’ve ever known is getting back in that race car -- for all us racers." -- Clint Bowyer , on ESPN "It's good to have Tony back in the car. It was a very tragic situation and I think it affected a lot of people. It was a tough situation and I'm certainly glad he's back at the race track, I'm sure it shifts his focus and makes it feel like he has something important." -- Greg Biffle "On the track if Tony Stewart's out there, you're going to have to deal with him to win that race or get that position, and he's just an awesome race car driver. You know, I probably haven't spent as much time with him as a lot of other drivers have away from the track, getting to know that sarcastic side to him or that joking side to him, but the time I have spent with him, the guy's just a good, fun-loving guy to hang out with. I think we're all happy to have him back; just hate the fact what the circumstances were as to why he wasn't here." -- Jeff Gordon "We knew he'd be back. I felt like in my heart he'd be back. The timetable for that was solely on him. We know obviously the legal proceedings have been taking place, and it looks like everything there is allowing him to come and be at the track, be cleared by NASCAR's review process and he feels emotionally ready. And then to see what he was just doing on the race track in practice, his speeds show he's emotionally ready to be back in the car. I can't imagine what he's been through, and I thought that his statements today were well thought out and certainly directed in the right direction toward the Ward family. As Tony's friend, I certainly feel sorry for him, and I think he's been through a real difficult time. My real priority is the Ward family. My real concern is there and the tragic loss that took place a few weeks ago." -- Jimmie Johnson "I've been out several times now and unfortunately Tony has as well. I think the biggest (emotion) is excitement. You're just really excited to get back in that race car. Appreciation is another emotion you really feel. Just the face that you're able to get back in the car and you have the chance to get back in again. At the end of the day at this level, there's a lot of parts of this job that it does become a job; it's work. But at the end of the day we do this because we love it. And we love being in that race car and we love being fast and I'm just, honestly, so happy to see Tony back in the car. I just have so much respect for that guy and we've missed him since he's been away and I can't wait to get out there and race with him. I think it was certainly a rare and tragic situation and I'm glad that NASCAR saw and understood the circumstances." -- Brian Vickers "I get a lot of messages on social media, which is probably the largest pulse I have for what's going on. I certainly get a lot of many more positive messages about it from my fans than anything else. I haven't really chimed in that much. I don't think there's — frustratingly — enough facts out there yet to have an informed opinion. Which, I sympathize for everyone out there. I think there should be a lot more facts available, but that's no one in (the media center's) fault. But still, I'm glad to see the fans are happy and it's the most important thing. Tony and other stuff, he's a strong guy. He'll figure it out." -- Brad Keselowski "I imagine he's been overwhelmed with the media he's done. I'm sure that he wants to come here and just practice and go on about his business, but when we get an opportunity to talk, we'll have a conversation. I haven't had a chance to see him at all. I figure that he'd been pretty busy today." -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. "Having him in the garage ... I haven't gotten to see him yet, so it's still kind of new. I'm sure I'll say something to him before too long and say hey. It's a crazy situation and just glad to see him back." -- Austin Dillon Kurt Busch , another teammate of Tony Stewart's , took to Twitter to express his thoughts on Stewart returning this weekend Glad to have my friend, team mate, & boss back in the car this weekend — Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) August 29, 2014 MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule