For the first time since the events involving Kevin Ward Jr., Tony Stewart answered questions from the media with regards to his feelings on things.
During a sprint car event on August 9th at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, Ward Jr. was spun out by Stewart. He then got out of his car to display his displeasure, when Stewart’s car would make contact with Ward, sending him sliding across the track. Ward Jr. would be transported to hospital, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival. Tony Stewart took a couple weeks off, but returned behind the wheel at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
It was announced last week that Tony Stewart will be not be charged as a grand jury determined “that there is no basis to charge Tony Stewart with any crimes; his case was ‘No-Billed’ by the grand jury.” per Orange County District Attorney Michael Tantillo.
During his availability earlier this week, Stewart said that if he could go back, he would’ve stayed in Watkin’s Glen that night and not ran the race.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Whether he will get back in a sprint car again is yet to be determined as he hasn’t thought about that too much lately.
“At this point I don’t really have — I’m not going to say I’m never going to get in one,” he said. “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.”
There has been more thought placed on what happened and trying to get through that right now for the Sprint Cup Series Champion. Stewart noted that the first couple of days following the incident, he didn’t do much of anything.
“I think the first three days that I was home I really didn’t do anything,” he commented. “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.”
Stewart also said that he did not know Ward Jr. before the incident, but thinks that they have probably raced against each other throughout his career as Stewart races with that group a couple times a year.
“They’ve always been a great group to race with, but I didn’t know him,” he commented. “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.”
Now moving forward, Stewart says he will be available to Ward’s family to talk to them if they want to talk. However, it isn’t totally necessary 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,” he explained. “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.”
As Stewart looks to move on himself, he noted that it has helped him personally to be back at the track, however it isn’t business as usual as there’s still a healing process going on.
“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,” he noted. “So that’s probably helped me more than anything when it’s come to trying to make that next step to move forward.”
He also noted that he has kept his schedule simple – motorhome, to car, to trailer, to car, back to motorhome – since making his return to racing at Atlanta.
“Even after Wednesday here in Charlotte, I haven’t left my house. It’s just an awkward feeling,” he commented. “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.”
Now with things looking to be more in the rearview, he added that he will begin doing the weekly press conferences and meet and greets with the fans & sponsor VIPs as he says that it’s important to do that as he gets over the events of what happened.
“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,” he commented. “I think it’s important for me to do that and get back to doing it as soon as possible.”