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Jeff Gordon on Tony Stewart: ‘Wish I could pat him on the back, give him a hug, talk to him’

Aug 17, 2014, 7:32 PM EST

Jeff Gordon is pictured with Tony Stewart prior to last year's Chase for the Sprint Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway. (Photo: Geoff Burke/Getty Images) Getty Images

BROOKLYN, Mich. – Rick Hendrick experienced great tragedy when he lost his only son, brother, two nieces and six others in a plane crash in 2004, but dealt with the resulting pain and grief with incredible grace and strength.

At the same time, Jeff Gordon not only comforted his boss and friend, he was also a stoic leader in helping to keep the Hendrick organization on track both literally and figuratively.

That’s why it’s not surprising that Hendrick and Gordon both understand and know the kind of grief and mourning Tony Stewart is going through following the Aug. 9 sprint car tragedy that took the life of young Kevin Ward Jr.

Following Gordon’s win Sunday at Michigan, MotorSportsTalk asked Hendrick and Gordon their thoughts about Stewart. While neither man has yet to talk directly to Stewart out of respect, they helped paint a picture of what they think he has to be experiencing.

“I’ve talked to Eddie Jarvis (Stewart’s business manager and close confidant),” Hendrick said. “I didn’t talk to Tony. I’ve stayed in touch with them. I brought Regan up to the race in Watkins Glen (to fill in for Stewart in the No. 14 race car for last Sunday’s Sprint Cup race).

“I think they’re making the best of the situation that they’re in. Tony’s got a lot of good folks around him. I’ve told him I’m there if they need me. But I haven’t talked to him.”

Gordon, meanwhile, downplayed the leadership role he took following the Hendrick Motorsports plane wreck, but also can understand how much his fellow racer and good friend is hurting.

“We luckily had an incredible leader in Rick Hendrick,” Gordon said. “To me he set the example for all of us. I was just so motivated by his ability to go through something so tragic, lose family members, yet be so appreciative of the people that work at Hendrick Motorsports, their efforts.

“You’re always looking for something to get you out of that. Even though it takes time to grieve, there’s a period of time where that needs to find a solution and a way for each and every person to go through it. I think at the same time seeing the race team go and perform and win races, come together through a tough, tough time was huge for all of us. I think Rick played a bigger role in that than I did.

“I have not spoken to Tony. I have reached out to him through texts, knowing I’m not going to get a response, but just to let him know I was thinking about him.

“I just can’t imagine what he’s going through. Can’t imagine what the Ward family is going through. It’s a very, very difficult time.

“But I support Tony, definitely support him. Wish I could pat him on the back, give him a hug, talk to him. I’d love to.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

  1. childofsea - Aug 17, 2014 at 8:36 PM

    It’s pretty apparent that people who truly know Tony agree that he did nothing out of anger to create the situation regarding the accident. It was racing as usual and unfortunately the young man chose to run into traffic to vent his frustration and lost his life. Tony did not intentionally spin him out, that could have been any other driver and Tony himself has been spun many times. You just don’t go bat-crap crazy and run onto the track over an incident like that in a race like that! C’mon, it was a po-dunk nothing track which paid very little. All that was to be grained was experience. So sad that so many people choose to attack Tony. He’s more a victim than the deceased.

    • indycar02 - Aug 17, 2014 at 8:54 PM

      when dan weldon passed all the nascar teams had his decal on their car, nascar should have done the same for kevin ward.

      • tbirdbaby - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:09 AM

        No, these are two totally different situations.

      • childofsea - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        What? To rephrase a comment made to Dan Quail, “Mr. Ward is NO Dan Wheldon!” What IS WRONG with you, IndyCar02? No common ground and no relevance. Me thinks you must be delusional! Grow up!

    • astrongus - Aug 18, 2014 at 11:38 AM

      It’s pretty apparent, by all the differing tales and by Tony Stewart not speaking, that “anger” and “loss of emotional control” by Tony Stewart are a factor in this tragedy…….If “smoke” did nothing wrong he would be the first to be talking. ..The fact that his lawyers have to speak for him is very telling……

      • gostlcards5 - Aug 18, 2014 at 12:57 PM

        Disagree. Even if he did nothing wrong, his legal people may be advising him to be silent until the investigation is complete.

      • childofsea - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:06 PM

        Ass-trogus: Really?? Tony is no fool! I’m sure he understands that ANYTHING he would say would be misconstrued and misinterpreted by the Media and losers like you. He’s a perfect target for Ward’s family to try to get BIG money over this tragedy! The truth will prevail. All Tony has to do is wait it out. Hopefully, those who think like you will shut their mouths and lose the hatred. Perhaps not, though. Some people are just born to hate and be envious of those who have accomplished as much ON HIS OWN, as Stewart has. He was not born into wealth, he EARNED it. ‘Nuff said!

      • toddbook - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:01 PM

        That’s totally false. Out of respect for the deceased and his loved ones, Tony is showing respect by not commenting. He is also grieving and the worst thing he could do right now is to comment on it. I’m sure everyone around him has also advised him to not comment any more until the investigation is complete. Tony gave an initial statement expressing his condolences and that’s very respectful.

      • rcplsu - Aug 27, 2014 at 9:17 AM

        @astrongus – You certainly know very little about racing and you know even less about our legal system!!! Not to mention the fact that in this country you are innocent until proven guilty but more so because Tony Stewart will not be charged with a crime but no matter what else happens he will be sued by the Ward family in Civil court for wrongful death so not only is there an ongoing investigation for Tony to consider but the certain law suit. So Tony would have to be as big and idiot or as clueless as you are to come out and make any statements in his defense or any statements other than those he made in condolence to the Ward family! oh and it is very telling…………… that someone had to point this out to you…

    • toddbook - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:56 PM

      I get what you are saying but “more of a victim than the deceased” is a little too far. I don’t believe Tony did anything wrong and it sickens me to see people accuse him of such despicable things. Tony is still alive and though this will haunt him, he is still alive. The young man lost his life.

      • childofsea - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:25 PM

        Sorry, Toddbook, but Tony did not MAKE the little lad get out of his car and rage across a slick, muddy, dark track toward Tony. It was Ward’s decision AND in doing so, has created sadness for the Stewart family (fans and blood relatives) that will never go away. So sorry that he lost his life — but that was an end product of his decision, not Tony’s. No one wants to kill a fellow racer, but Ward made it unavoidable.

        Sincerely hope other drivers learn from this. Nothing — even losing a race — is worth risking your life.

  2. drylake - Aug 18, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    “I love you, man.”

  3. safaber3 - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:30 PM

    Tony not commenting on the event is surely the lawyer’s doing, but it is the smart way to handle the situation. Anything Tony would say could be turned around by any sharp lawyer and the Ward family is surely working on a wrongful death suit. The fact that he has remained quiet except for his initial statement shows he is doing what his lawyers wish him too. Also it is good for him to stay quiet out of respect for the Ward family. Talking about the night would probably be the first thing to help Tony work through the night.

    Tony has been judged, convicted and sentenced in this deal by the media and the social media when it looks like the young man got out of his car, ran on the track and either fell onto Tony’s car (this is why he grabbed Tony’s wing) or slipped on the slick dirt racing surface into Tony’s car . A tragic event that could not have been prevented by Tony.

    You do not get out of your car and you don not run onto the track when you are allowed to get of your car. It is sad for racing and sad for the Stewart and Ward families.

  4. wrlegrand - Aug 18, 2014 at 3:31 PM

    The sad thing about the entire situation is that had it been anyone other than Tony Steward, Ward would have simply handled it the “old-fashion” way in the pit area. I still honestly think that he was upset that Stewart came in and thought this was going to be him moment to get some notoriety. Obviously, he did not deserve to die, but this certainly was preventable on many levels.

  5. jinx21fan - Aug 18, 2014 at 5:02 PM

    That’s classy of Jeff Gordon, as soon as Tony Stewart finds the strength to leave the house I’m sure fellow racers would all like to give him a hug. Until then, he’s just hanging out …

    • childofsea - Aug 19, 2014 at 8:39 AM

      jinx — Agree with your comment, but . . . the insert is obnoxious. No one wants to see that, not even the family of the poor guy in the picture. I know, you probably think it’s funny, but most people see no humor in making fun of overweight people. Not cool.

  6. stagedoorjohnny - Aug 18, 2014 at 6:44 PM

    For those of you that think Mr. Stewart did nothing wrong please keep your opinions to yourself. It’s embarrassing the rest of us. You know nothing and showing your ignorance just annoys us. Let the investigation play out and stay clear.
    Fact is none of you know exactly what happened.
    Like I mentioned earlier even some of Mr. Stewart’s have remarked that they fear and worry about what Mr. Stewart did.
    Now get a life – something that young Mr. Ward has been denied.

    • childofsea - Aug 18, 2014 at 7:02 PM

      Sorry, but if Mr. Ward had been able to control his emotions, he also would still be alive. Say and think what you want, but the bottom line is — AND EVERYONE KNOWS THIS — had he not run onto the track, this would not have ended so tragically! If he had stayed by his car, no one, EVEN if they wanted to, could have hit him!

    • stlouis1baseball - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:58 AM

      You need to get a clue. Watch the video Johnny. There were perhaps TWO cars in front of Tony that passed Kevin Ward when he was on the track storming/looking for Tony. The one immediately in front of Tony almost hit him. Then Tony comes out of the corner and there is Kevin Ward. Again…watch the video. Had Kevin Ward stepped toward the car in front of Tony (like he did when Tony came out of the corner) he would have been hit then. All Tony could do was to try to hit the accelerator to get around him. Why you might ask?
      Because driving Sprint cars on a dirt track is the most difficult form of racing. Had Tony hit his brakes his back end would have slung around and ran completely over Kevin Ward. In lieu of this, when he saw him at the last minute his only hope was to hit the gas to swerve around him. Unfortunately, his BACK TIRE hit him. So let me ask you. Had this been intentional, how does one do so while only making contact with his BACK TIRE? Your are a grade ‘A’ idiot Johnny. You would do all of us a favor by showing yourself to the back “stage door.”

      • childofsea - Aug 19, 2014 at 12:48 PM

        Stlouis1. Well said! Thanks! Johnny obviously hates Tony. Hate him if you like, but open your eyes. This kid tragically committed suicide by way of emotional overload. Not Tony’s fault! So sad.

      • stlouis1baseball - Aug 19, 2014 at 5:48 PM

        Yeah…it’s all drama all the time.
        I chalk it up to the Jerry Springer mentality most of our Country seems to crave in todays world.

    • rcplsu - Aug 27, 2014 at 9:06 AM

      Ward put himself in peril !!! Ward is totally responsible for his own death!!!!

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