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NASCAR: Joe Gibbs hopeful for eventual return of Tony Stewart

Aug 19, 2014, 3:12 PM EDT

Bojangles' Southern 500 Getty Images

Since his involvement in a fatal sprint car incident on Aug. 9, three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart has been largely in seclusion.

He has not competed in the last two Sprint Cup events at Watkins Glen (replaced by Regan Smith) and Michigan (replaced by Jeff Burton), and several of his peers – including Jeff Gordon and Stewart Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick – have said that they haven’t been able to speak with him.

But team owner Joe Gibbs, whose No. 20 squad won the 2002 and 2005 Sprint Cup championships with Stewart behind the wheel, believes that “Smoke” will eventually come back.

“We all love Tony, we love what he did for us here,” Gibbs has said to USA Today’s Jeff Gluck. “We know he’s a racer’s racer and he’s big for our sport. I would love to have a chance to speak with him at some point and encourage him.”

Gibbs hailed his former driver as a man of “great courage,” but also acknowledged the Aug. 9 tragedy as “a horrible thing to have happen” for all involved – including Stewart and the family of Kevin Ward Jr.

Ward, 20, was struck and killed by Stewart’s car after attempting to confront him under caution following an on-track incident between the two. The young racer was laid to rest last Thursday.

“This is just hard to go through, so everybody is going to have to prayerfully work their way through it,” said Gibbs, who also mentioned to Gluck that he’s been hesitant to reach out to Stewart because he’s been told by the driver’s representatives that he was taking some time for himself.

Last weekend at Michigan, Stewart Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood said that Stewart himself will make the final decision on when he’ll climb back inside his No. 14 SHR Chevrolet.

Additionally, Frood said that Stewart was “surrounded…by his closest friends and family” and that his current location “is of a private nature.”

As of now, no official announcement has yet been made by SHR on Stewart’s status for Saturday night’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Burton, his most recent substitute in the No. 14, told NBCSN’s NASCAR AMERICA yesterday that he and SHR have not talked about him filling in again at Bristol.

  1. astrongus - Aug 19, 2014 at 5:22 PM

    Joe Gibbs says, “I would love to have a chance to speak with him at some point and encourage him.”………………………Yeah, well there are many people who would like to do the same to Tony Stewarts victim who was laid to rest less than a week ago…Joe Gibbs comment is very offensive and disrespectful to friends and family of Kevin Ward…………..

    • indycarseries500 - Aug 19, 2014 at 5:50 PM

      Tony deny you an autograph or insult some stupid question you asked him or something?

    • techmeister1 - Aug 19, 2014 at 6:52 PM


      Being quick to accuse when you have no firsthand facts of the matter is ignorant and unscrupulous. You also have a reading impairment as Joe Gibbs stated that this is a terrible tragedy for all involved. Hating Stewart for Kevin’s poor judgment is not going to bring Kevin Ward Jr. back to life.

      Despite the hate and ignorance, we know one fact for certain – If Kevin had stayed in his car, he’d be alive today. This is why CRASHCAR and others were quick to make new rules or reiterate existing rules about NOT getting out of the car unless it was on fire. A bad decision in the heat of the moment cost Kevin his life and none of us want to see that happen again. This was a tragic totally preventable accident.

      • worknman24hours - Aug 19, 2014 at 8:48 PM

        Everything tech said except the Crashcar part.

  2. dhalb34 - Aug 19, 2014 at 5:54 PM

    Get the heck out of here with that BS comment. Mr. Gibbs is saying what everyone in the sport that is a friend of Tony Stewart is saying right now.

  3. messengerfm - Aug 19, 2014 at 8:29 PM

    Why? Mr. Stewart may have been playing a game that turned fatal, or he may have really not seen the man right in front him. Either way, he has nothing to add to NASCAR. This incident is simple Karma or payback for creating his own image as a bad boy and making millions from it. I would rather see Gibbs leave racing and Tony stay away. Neither is a positive influence on the sport.

  4. dhalb34 - Aug 19, 2014 at 8:51 PM

    How is Joe Gibbs not a positive influence on the sport? He has become Toyota’s flagship team. He’s bringing another first time sponsor into NASCAR with Edwards’ team. I get the Tony hate, but not understanding the Gibbs hate.

  5. worknman24hours - Aug 19, 2014 at 9:13 PM

    Tony’s got alot to lose by coming to the races like nothing has happened.

    He also has alot to lose by having conversations with anyone he knows right now because there are always other people listening and things get really jacked out of place in the media when people think they hear people say things they never said.

    So the bottom line here is to stay out of the public eye,do the business of business and let the law do it’s process in full.

    Not to mention that Tony was’nt completely healthy anyway.

    And being home with his family at this bad time makes sure that he’s sure they are o.k. and don’t have to face any nonsense unprotected over this sad situation.

    I expect that Tony won’t be back driving until next year at the earliest.

    If at all.

    Tony has worked his whole life to get the business together he’s got now and never in his life imagined he’d be in the situation he’s gotten himself,his family and his racing teams into right now.

    How could imagine that you would drive over someone outside of a race car by accident and kill them?

    It’s just not in the mental process of racing at any time.

    It’s just a a good time for Tony to be at home right now away from all the hate directed at him and his family from people who simply refuse to accept that he never wanted any of this to happen in the first place.

    Tony not being at trackside right now also protects his team from the ugliness as well.

    By the way,hating on the people who know Tony Stewart better then any one of us ever will just shows all of us what you do not know and never will.

    • stagedoorjohnny - Aug 19, 2014 at 9:21 PM

      No hating. Just honest to God truth. Fact is a few of his friends have called and volunteered information (and not solicited) to reporters and are worried that Mr. Stewart did try to scare the kid and misjudged the distance.
      That’s from some of his friends.
      And regarding hate – a lot of it is still directed at Mr. Ward and his actions. Except he’s no longer around to defend himself.

      • worknman24hours - Aug 19, 2014 at 11:12 PM

        The hating I am referring to is when people like Joe Gibb ,Jeff Gordon ,Kevin Harvick and others say things that support that Tony as a good friend and that they hope they can help him get through this and that there is some other devious thing at work here.

        But STJ,you bring up a very important point as well.

        Mr.Ward’s family and friends are likely facing an onslaught of hate directed at them because they totally blame Tony for killing their son and friend.

        And unlike Tony,they don’t have an entire nation full of fans willing to do things to support them.

        It’s not about business or getting back in a car to them.

        It’s about seeing some form of justice come out of this terrible loss they have suffered.

        Tony Stewart’s is paying and will continue to pay a high price for what he did.

        Just how high a price, the law (and the racing fans) over the coming years will decide.

  6. stagedoorjohnny - Aug 19, 2014 at 9:15 PM

    …”We all love Tony…”

    Fact is we would all love for a complete, thorough and full investigation and not some whitewash job by NASCAR so not as to insult the sponsors and give racing a black eye.
    That’s what we would all love to happen.

    Mr. Stewart – please don’t come back to driving until this is done.

    • worknman24hours - Aug 19, 2014 at 10:59 PM

      NASCAR has NOTHING to do with what Tony unfortunately did to Ward Jr..

      Not a darn thing.

      The law is certainly not falling over to finish their investigation quickly here and there will be no whitewash job.

      And by all accounts the law in the area of the track where this happened is run by some straight shooting,impartial,honest people.

      As far as the sponsors go,there will definitely be many who will no longer do business with Tony directly.

      That alone may well guarantee that you get your wish that Tony never drives stock cars again.

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