Monday, September 29, 2014

Tony Stewart Breaks Radio Silence Since Sprint Car Accident

Stewart during driver introductions at Dover International Speedway, Sept. 28, 2014.
Credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs  
Less than a week after being exonerated of criminal charges in the fatal accident involving Kevin Ward Jr., a visibly emotional Tony Stewart sat down to speak with the media. The Sprint Cup champion opened up about his life since that August night in upstate New York and his return to stock car racing in Atlanta.

"We knew everybody had questions, and we knew that everybody was going to want answers to what’s going on. But I think more than anything, we wanted to be able to tell everything from the beginning.”

Stewart said he didn’t know Ward personally but has spent time reading about him since the accident.

“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.”

When asked whether he wants to talk to the Ward family to have closure, Stewart responded, “I want to be available to them if they want to talk about it … I know it was an accident, but I’m offering to talk to them to help them, if it helps them with closure.”

The accident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park wasn’t the first time that Stewart has suffered loss.

“I’ve had close friends die in race cars. I’ve had teammates die in race cars, and there is nothing easy about it … 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.”

Stewart did not return to the race car until the Sprint Cup race in Atlanta but admits that “it’s not been business as usual.” The driver who is so passionate about his love for motorsports said, “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 racetrack and being around my racing family and remembering that I have a passion for what I do.”

When asked if he would have done anything differently over the past couple of months, a somber Stewart answered without hesitation.

“I’d have stayed at Watkins Glen that night … 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 do it to have fun, and it didn’t end up being fun that night.”

Talking with the press, Stewart offered, is “another step of making forward progress… to resume what was the best of a normal life before this.” Right now, Stewart is taking life one day at a time.

“Before the accident happened, a day would fly by, and now a day seems like two or three days. 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.

“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.”

Stewart said he's thankful for support from fans: “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.”

Many of his fans may have found themselves wondering whether Stewart would return to sprint cars or entertain the thought of leaving motorsports altogether. Stewart did say he has no immediate plans to return to sprint Car racing and doesn’t know “if and when” he’ll ever get back behind the wheel. However, when it comes to racing in general, he will continue to participate in the sport he loves.

“This is what I’ve done all my life. This is what I’ve done for 36 years, and I wouldn’t change anything about it. I love what I do. I love driving race cars, but I think it might change right now as far as how much of it and what I do, but there was never a thought in my head about stopping. That would take the life out of me.”

Of the accident and its aftermath, Stewart said it will always be in his mind.

“It will never go away. It’s always going to be part of my life the rest of my life… It’s going to be a 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.”

4 comments :