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
For the first time since his return at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Tony Stewart addressed the media on Monday to answers questions and look toward the future.
Full coverage of tragedy, ensuing events Sept. 29: Stewart answers questions publicly Tony Stewart takes questions from media for first time since tragedy, reiterating it was an accident and talking about future. " Read the full story " Full transcript of press conference Sept. 26: Drivers at Dover react to Stewart news Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick share thoughts on grand jury decision " Read the full story Sept. 26: Stewart on his sprint car future Tony Stewart tells The Associated Press that he may not race sprint cars again. " Read the full story Sept. 26: Stewart speaks on ruling In his first interview since the grand jury's ruling, Tony Stewart gives his reaction and tells The Associated Press 'this was 100 percent an accident.' " Read the full story Sept. 25: Hurdles remain for Stewart on and off the track Kenny Bruce column: Three-time champion has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing but life remains far from the same. " Read the full story 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
Earnhardt Jr., Johnson and Harvick share thoughts on grand jury decision RELATED: Full timeline of Stewart coverage " Stewart on accident " Future in sprint cars DOVER, Del. -- Two days after grand jury proceedings came to a close in Ontario County, New York, Tony Stewart was back at work Friday, strapped into his No. 14 Chevrolet and making preliminary laps at Dover International Speedway . His return to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition came four weeks ago at Atlanta, but Friday marked his first day at the track without the potential for criminal charges in the accident that killed sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. on Aug. 9. While that part of the matter is resolved, Stewart made clear in an interview with The Associated Press that he remains haunted by the events of that dark Saturday night at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park. As Stewart tries to find a new, but forever altered sense of normalcy at the track, the NASCAR community -- which counts the three-time champion known as "Smoke" among its most popular members -- has reached out with thoughts for both Stewart and the Ward family, both before and after Wednesday's announcement of the grand jury's decision. "I don't know if relief is what I had," said Dale Earnhardt Jr ., NASCAR's reigning most popular driver. "I didn't really pay super close attention to what was going on. More or less just letting the process play out, and I feel sadness in my heart for the Ward family. But at the same time you get something in the pit of your stomach that is sort of this frightfulness or this fear for Tony and what he is having to deal with. Just having known him for all these years you can imagine that he is going through something super emotional and overwhelming by a huge measure. "There is sort of a sickness or something in the pit of your stomach for what Tony is going through, but at the same time you never really forget that somebody was killed. There is a family with a hole in their heart and they have got to figure out a way to live out the rest of their lives with this always on their mind. It will have a huge effect on both sides for so many years. It's just super-duper unfortunate." The revelation that Ward -- a 20-year-old driver who won four races on the regional Empire Super Sprints circuit -- was under the influence of marijuana to a degree that would impair judgment, according to authorities, was termed "shocking" by six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson . The report also raised the question about restrictions and policing illegal substances at the nation's short tracks, many of which operate without the benefit of a regional or national sanctioning body to oversee such a process. "I guess I don't understand enough about it all and what the repercussions for short tracks would be. Still, first and foremost, I just don't want to ignore the fact that it was a massive tragedy that took place," Johnson said. "The toxicology report is shocking to see. From a friend perspective and worrying about Tony and understanding what he's gone through and how tough this has been on him, I'm sure there is some type of relief that it's kind of done, in that respect. But at the same time, coming back to the Ward family, even in the remarks I read from Tony , I'm sure he feels OK about not having this go any further and there being legal actions. A civil suit is still out there and that can happen for any reason, to anybody in this room. But, the other side of it, still first and foremost on Tony's mind is that it was an accident and his heart is still out for the Ward family. "And I just echo those same things. It's such a tragedy to have these details come out and people potentially forming sides, there's just no good in that. It's just been a terrible accident and we need to pay respect to Kevin Ward Jr., and I don't know how you go on, but just move forward." While Stewart qualified 15th for Sunday's AAA 400 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN), teammate Kevin Harvick carried the torch for the Stewart-Haas Racing team Friday with his seventh Coors Light Pole Award of the year. Harvick said that he couldn't speak for the entire organization's state of mind, but said that he was personally relieved after Wednesday's announcement. "You worry about your friend and the circumstances that are surrounding him and how things could be dictated for the rest of his life," Harvick said. "Just being around and knowing how much it's weighed on him and all the things that he has going on, for me personally, I'm happy for my friend. As far as the team, we've all got jobs to do and have had to press through them, but I'm overjoyed in obviously a devastating situation, but I'm just happy that it's to a point where everybody knows what's happening in the future and start the process of trying to deal with it and move on into some sort of normalcy." 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
Three-time Sprint Cup champion: 'It's just been a really tough six weeks' RELATED: Full timeline of Stewart incident " Stewart: 'This was 100 percent an accident' Tony Stewart loves racing, and he loved to drive sprint cars. He said it was something he would not give up following his broken leg in a sprint car accident in August of 2013. But following the sprint car tragedy in which Stewart's car struck Kevin Ward Jr., resulting in Ward's death, Stewart told The Associated Press that he may never get back in a sprint car again. "I would say it's going to be a long time before you ever see me in a sprint car again, if ever. I don't have any desire to get back in a car," Stewart said. "If I had the option to go right now to a race, I wouldn't. I don't even know when I'll go to a sprint car race again to watch. I can promise you it's going to be a long time before you ever see me back in one." Stewart made his name on dirt tracks growing up in the racing community. Earlier in the year, there was plenty of anticipation around when he would get back to racing on them following his 2013 broken leg that kept him sidelined for the final 15 races of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Stewart acknowledged to the AP that he had weighed giving up sprint car racing following that injury. "It's hurt for 16 months to sit and be scrutinized for it and to try to give back to a sport that you love, and every time you turn around, you've got to constantly defend yourself for doing something and trying to support something that you believe in and care about," he said." According to the report, legal counsel has advised Stewart not to describe what he remembers about the Aug. 9 crash in upstate New York. "It's just been a really tough six weeks," he said. 'I went to go have fun for a night, and that's not what ended up happening." Stewart said at some point, he hopes the Ward family would want to hear what happened from his perspective. "I would hope they understand -- maybe they do, maybe they don't, maybe they never will -- that I do care," Stewart said. "I've tried to be respectful of their process of grieving and not push myself on them. I'm sure they have things that they want to know what happened and I think it's important for them at some point to hear it from my point." 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
Get the latest Tony Stewart news, media, stats, and standings for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver only on the official site of NASCAR.
No indictment for NASCAR driver in sprint car tragedy RELATED: Full coverage of Stewart incident Deciding that there was insufficient evidence to warrant criminal charges, an Ontario County (New York) grand jury will not bring any charges against NASCAR champion Tony Stewart for his involvement in a sprint car accident during an Aug. 9 race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park that fatally injured fellow driver Kevin Ward Jr. Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to deliver the findings, ultimately saying that "there was no evidence to charge Tony Stewart with a crime." He said the grand jury examined the evidence and heard from two dozen witnesses for "the better part of two days" before reaching its conclusion. The two charges it considered were second degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. In the state of New York it takes 12 of 23 votes from the grand jury to return charges. They delivered their verdict in less than an hour. Tantillo said of the two dozen-plus witnesses that testified, they included two accident reconstructionists, eye-witnesses, track workers and medical responders along with photographs and two video recordings. He said Stewart was able to testify, but by law he could not reveal who else did or did not. Of the videos, Tantillo revealed "They were relatively similar in what they showed. They were enhanced and run through programs that allowed the frames to be isolated. … They were pretty important parts of the result here." The one video previously made public shows Ward's and Stewart's cars collide while racing on the tight 0.375-mile dirt track in Upstate New York, then Ward quickly getting out of his hobbled car and coming down toward the racing line to confront Stewart during the caution laps that ensued. Stewart's car struck Ward, who was pronounced dead upon his arrival at a local hospital. Tantillo said there was a toxicologist report conducted on Ward and it found that Ward was under the influence of marijuana "enough to impair judgment." Stewart issued a statement following Tantillo's news conference. "This has been the toughest and most emotional experience of my life and it will stay with me forever. I'm very grateful for all the support I've received and continue to receive,'' Stewart said. "I respect everything the District Attorney and Sheriff's Office did to thoroughly investigate this tragic accident. While the process was long and emotionally difficult, it allowed for all the facts of the accident to be identified and known. "While much of the attention has been on me, it's important to remember a young man lost his life. Kevin Ward Jr.'s family and friends will always be in my thoughts and prayers.'' Stewart, 43, has cooperated with the investigation from the beginning and sat out three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races out of respect for the Ward family. In his only public remarks about the accident, a somber Stewart said on Aug. 29 that "this has been one of the toughest tragedies I've ever had to deal with both professionally and personally. This is something that will definitely affect my life forever. This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one ever has to experience in their life." He returned to competition at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Aug. 31 and has finished a best of 15th-place in the four races he's competed in since the accident. He is on the entry list for this weekend's race at Dover International Speedway . "There are no winners in tragedy," NASCAR Chief Communications Officer Brett Jewkes said in a statement released by the sanctioning body. "Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Kevin Ward Jr. family and Tony Stewart as they all cope with this tragic incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. This has been a difficult time for everyone involved and we have respected the local authorities responsible for reviewing this case." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Driver 'grateful' for support, keeps thoughts with Ward family RELATED: Full coverage of Stewart incident The following statement was posted on Tony Stewart's Facebook page: "This has been the toughest and most emotional experience of my life, and it will stay with me forever. I'm very grateful for all the support I've received and continue to receive. "I respect everything the District Attorney and Sheriff's Office did to thoroughly investigate this tragic accident. While the process was long and emotionally difficult, it allowed for all the facts of the accident to be identified and known. "While much of the attention has been on me, it's important to remember a young man lost his life. Kevin Ward Jr.'s family and friends will always be in my thoughts and prayers."
Brett Jewkes, NASCAR Chief Communications Officer, on Ontario (N.Y.) County District Attorney announcement RELATED: Full coverage of Stewart incident DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- "There are no winners in tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Kevin Ward Jr. family and Tony Stewart as they all cope with this tragic incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. This has been a difficult time for everyone involved and we have respected the local authorities responsible for reviewing this case."
Driver reiterates event was 'accident,' talks about what's next RELATED: Full transcript from press conference " Complete timeline of Stewart incident Looking solemn and speaking in soft, deliberate tones, Tony Stewart took questions from the media Monday morning for the first time since being involved in a fatal sprint car racing accident on Aug. 9 that took the life of driver Kevin Ward Jr. The three-time NASCAR champion frequently glanced down at his hands and thoughtfully answered questions from reporters about the impact the situation has had -- and continues to have -- on his life, conceding, "I don't know if it will ever be normal again." Stewart allowed that it's possible that he will not compete in sprint car races again saying, "At this point, I won't be in one for a while." But he dismissed the idea that he gave any serious consideration to retiring as a professional driver. "There was never a thought in my head about stopping," Stewart said. Throughout the question-and-answer period at the Stewart-Haas Racing headquarters, Stewart repeatedly expressed sadness for Ward's family and reiterated that what transpired on that summer night at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park was "100 percent an accident." While competing on the upstate New York 0.375-mile dirt track in a locally sanctioned sprint car race, Ward's and Stewart's cars collided. Video shows Ward exited his hobbled car and came down the track toward the racing line to confront Stewart on an ensuing caution lap. Stewart's car struck Ward, who was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. An Ontario County, New York grand jury heard two days of evidence -- which included video replays, eyewitness accounts, accident reconstructions and a toxicologist report that indicated Ward was under the influence of marijuana -- and deliberated less than an hour before deciding on Sept. 24 there was no evidence to bring criminal charges against Stewart. Asked for his reaction to finding out Ward was under the influence of drugs, Stewart said, "Honestly for me, it didn't change anything. "To me, a young driver lost his life . … I know in my heart it was 100 percent accident and that detail didn't mean anything to me personally." And Stewart said that he is, and has been, open to speaking with Ward's family. "I don't need to talk to them for [my] closure, I know what happened and I know it was an accident," Stewart said. "I'd offer to talk to them if it helps them with closure. I want to be available to them if they ever want to talk." Stewart revealed that in the days immediately following the accident, he stayed in seclusion in his Indiana home. It was a dark and emotional time, something he is still slowly recovering from with the help of a counselor. "The first three days, I didn't get out of bed, didn't care if I took a shower," Stewart said, glancing down. "I only left my room to get food. …I didn't want to talk to anybody, 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." And if he could do anything differently in hindsight, Stewart shook his head slightly and answered with the candor he is known for during a 16-year career as one of NASCAR's biggest stars. "I would have stayed at Watkins Glen that night," Stewart said, referring to the Sprint Cup venue he was scheduled to race at on Aug. 10 Of racing sprint cars, Stewart said, "I do these things to have fun. It wasn't a big paying race by sprint car standards. … I just wanted to run my sprint car for a night. I do it to have fun and. …" his voice trailed off, "It didn't end up being fun." After deciding not to compete in the next three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races out of respect to the Ward family, Stewart returned to the seat of his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Aug. 31 and called the loud and enthusiastic reception he received from the fans during driver introductions that day "very overwhelming." "At first, I thought I accidentally walked out in Dale Jr.'s spot," Stewart said allowing just a trace of his trademark self-deprecating humor. "I'm glad I had sunglasses on," Stewart continued earnestly. "It was probably the most flattering and humbling part of my career was to walk out there and have that kind of reception. "Riding around in the back of the pick‑up truck and seeing people against the fence that were cheering for us and they had Jeff Gordon shirts on and Carl Edwards shirts and Matt Kenseth shirts. Didn't matter what they had on, it really showed the support. "I'll never forget that moment." With last week's announcement that no criminal charges will be filed against him, Stewart stressed that he is hoping to begin moving forward even as his life is forever changed. He explained, "You take it one day at a time and 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." Stewart called questions about sponsorship support and his decreased role as co-owner of the four-car SHR team legitimate queries. He said his sponsors have been supportive throughout and that Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris was even one of the few visitors to his Indiana home. As for his team, SHR had two cars -- driven by Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch -- make the 16-driver first round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. However, Busch did not advance to the 12-driver Contender Round in Sunday's first elimination race at Dover. Stewart was hard on himself with respect to his ownership duties. "I've let my team down from that standpoint," he said. "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 doing, but other than that, I haven't been able to contribute too much." Stewart promised that despite this life-changing situation, his passion for racing remains fervent. A hugely popular driver and one of the sport's biggest philanthropists, he said he still thinks about the events of Aug. 9 on a daily basis, but is hopeful that as the days go by, his healing will grow stronger. "It's not something that goes away; it will never go away," Stewart said. "It's always going to be part of my life the rest of my life. "It's going to be part of Kevin's family's life and it's never going to go away for any of us, but hopefully it will get easier for all of us." And being back in the NASCAR garage has helped soul and spirit. "Going to the race track was the first step in reconnecting with a lot of those people and being able to thank them for their kind words and their advice," he said of the outpouring of support he received. "There's been so much that I've learned from my peers, my friends … whether it's been personal experiences [they shared] or just kind words. "I don't think I could spend the rest of my life and accurately thank everybody for what they've done to help us get through this." And, he said, "I don't know that it (life) will ever be normal again, but we'll find a place to settle into and do the best we can like we have to this point. "Whether I ever get back to that (jovial personality) or not, hopefully through this I will somehow be a better person. That's all I can hope for." 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