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When — or will — Tony Stewart ever race again?

Aug 20, 2014, 4:17 PM EDT

tony stewart watkins glen 2014 a Getty Images

Amidst news that Tony Stewart will not race this weekend at Bristol, as well as a grassroots campaign is building support for Stewart, including plans to stand up and cheer for him during Lap 14 (Stewart’s race car number) of Saturday night’s race at Bristol, one question still remains:

When or will Stewart ever race again?

This is strictly my opinion, but it would appear likely at the very least that Stewart will not return behind the wheel of his No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet until the current investigation by Ontario County (NY) sheriff’s deputies into the tragic sprint car accident that killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. is completed.

Sheriff Philip C. Povero said early last week that the investigation would likely take up to two weeks.

If that timing is correct, we should have some kind of conclusion and report on the tragic wreck by the early to middle part of next week.

If Stewart is found not to be culpable in the accident, it would seem one of the most logical venues for his return to racing would be the Oral-B USA 500 on Aug. 31 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Again, this is strictly speculation and my opinion.

One of Stewart’s biggest sponsors, not to mention one of his closest friends, Bass Pro Shops and company founder and president Johnny Morris, have a long history with Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Atlanta market is also very significant in Morris’ corporate structure.

If and when Stewart is going to come back to Sprint Cup racing, he’d do well to surround himself with as many friends and sponsors as he can, making Atlanta the perfect venue to do so.

Stewart and Morris have more than just a driver-sponsor relationship. They’re very close friends, fishing buddies and more. If anyone will have Stewart’s back from a sponsor’s and friend’s standpoint, Morris would be it.

What’s more, Stewart has a strong performance record at AMS: In 26 Sprint Cup starts, he has three wins, 10 top-10 and 15 top-10 finishes. He’s said many times that it’s one of his favorite tracks on the circuit.

There’s another bit of logic for Stewart to return to racing at Atlanta: if he were to come back for the final Chase qualifying race at Richmond, his presence would likely cause a significant distraction from the task at hand of naming 16 drivers to make up the expanded Chase field.

Likewise and ditto for Stewart returning to the Cup series for the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway: It would distract and detract from the beginning of NASCAR’s yearly marquee event.

That’s why Atlanta makes the most sense.

Now, granted, Stewart may very well just take the rest of the season off. If that were to be the case, it’s unlikely that any of his supporters would blame him. I know I wouldn’t.

But at the same time, what’s one of the first things doctors, psychologists and other experts advise those who’ve been involved in serious car wrecks (that oftentimes include fatalities)?

“Get back in the car and start driving again.”

That’s the same logic for Stewart. Sure, he’s obviously grieving greatly. He has not made a public statement since the morning of the Watkins Glen race, not more than 12 hours or so after the tragic incident that killed Ward.

Since then, there’s been absolutely nothing from Stewart in terms of what he’s saying, thinking or feeling. We’re left to our own devices to assume what he’s going through, how he’s mourning Ward and how he’s dealing with the resulting grief and fallout from arguably the biggest tragedy Stewart has ever known.

He’s likely keeping quiet for two reasons. First, he’s allowing the Ward family to grieve and mourn their son and brother. Even though Ward was buried last week, the wounds are still running deep – and likely will for a long, long time.

Second, it would not be a surprise that Stewart’s lawyers have advised him not to make any public statements until the crash investigation is over.

That’s a logical possibility, given that whatever Stewart might have to say could potentially be used against him in either a criminal case (if he’s charged by authorities) or civil suit.

It’s not surprising that Stewart missed the Sprint Cup races at both Watkins Glen and Michigan this past Sunday. And as much as he loves to race there, it’s equally not going to be a surprise that Stewart will once again not race at Bristol this Saturday night (just like at Michigan, Jeff Burton will replace Stewart in the No. 14 at Bristol).

But come Atlanta, if there’s any place where he’ll likely feel the most love and support of any remaining track on the circuit this season, that super-fast 1.5-mile oval will likely be the most welcoming locale for Stewart.

Some fans fear that perhaps we’ve seen the last of Stewart behind the wheel, that he’ll retire as an active driver across all racing platforms.

I disagree, nor do I see that happening.

Rather, Stewart would be well-served if he did get back in a race car again. He owes it to his fans, he owes it to his sponsors, he owes it to his company and its hundreds of employees. He also owes it to himself.

And in a way, he owes it to the memory of Kevin Ward Jr.

Whether he was killed by his own mistake or not, Ward was a racer first and foremost. If the shoe was on the other foot, I’m sure Stewart would tell Ward it was nothing more than a tragic accident and that he owed it to himself to keep racing.

It’s the same for Stewart.

That’s why Atlanta makes the most sense for his return. It’s far enough away from the original incident, it comes after the investigation result will likely be made public and a growing number of fans want to see Stewart race again.

Of course, if the investigation does find negligence or culpability on Stewart’s part, then it’s likely we’ve seen him race for the final time of his career.

Follow me on Twitter @JerryBonkowski

  1. prov1x - Aug 20, 2014 at 7:01 PM

    Love your writing/reporting, Jerry. Always have.

    • astrongus - Aug 21, 2014 at 1:41 PM

      Jerry – This is bias reporting with support being given to a “bully” who committed manslaughter and obstruction of justice.(referencing the missing camera and rear tire). You have given no facts to substantiate Tony Stewart doing no wrong……Tony Stewart bullied that driver and now he is dead…..and you are concerned about when Tony will race again?????? Your ethics and morals should be checked…

      • ddmotorsports - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:27 PM

        Or perhaps he is not judging whether Stewart had intent to kill or not, since it is not his (or your) place to do so. Perhaps he is simply discussing “If and When” he will be back (as the title suggests).

  2. Jerry Bonkowski - Aug 20, 2014 at 7:54 PM

    Thanks very much for the kind words, Prov1x. Really appreciate the support.

  3. bornahawker - Aug 21, 2014 at 12:02 AM

    Tony is an ass, but not culpable for a dumb kid running around on a racetrack. Now in this nanny state we currently reside in Tony will settle a civil suit for $10-$30 million. Wards family will say that Stewarts negligence cost junior millions in what was to be a successful racing career. At the end of the day Tony will be a better man because when life becomes difficult we have the ability to see how fragile our lives are and how quickly they can change. Just because I call the kid dumb for his actions does not mean I blame him for his own death. But lets be sure not to blame Tony either, because there is no way in hell he intended to hurt anyone. In a perfect world the Wards will forgive Tony for juniors mistake and they together can do great things for others without some grimy money grab since Tony has about $500 million bucks. I am sure he would love to spend some honorably in the memory of young Mr. Ward. Lets see if he gets the chance.

  4. linusmathews1967 - Aug 21, 2014 at 1:46 AM

    What is going on in this case? There are reports of Stewart tampering with evidence. There were many people who saw a GoPro camera on Stewart’s car the night of the “accident”. The Sheriff when asked about the camera claimed that he did not know about any camera on Stewart’s car. Stewart also had his pit crew remove the Right Rear Tire off his car. Where is that tire? Lastly there are the reports that Stewart told his pit crew something to the effect of “Watch what I do to this kid now,” or “I’ll teach this kid a lesson…”

    If all of this is true there is a very nasty cover-up going on in this case. Sheriff Povero is seemingly implicated in it all as well. It looks like Tony’s big money is working behind the scenes to keep him out of the slammer. This was murder 2. Tony Stewart belongs in prison.

    • astrongus - Aug 21, 2014 at 1:47 PM

      That GoPro footage would be very telling. It would demonstrate the speed, acceleration and the clear track on the inside lane before Stewart steers into Ward….There was lot’s of clear track to the inside….

    • ddmotorsports - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:32 PM

      Presumptuous, incendiary, reactionary, sensational. You sir, are an asshat.

  5. tobie1003 - Aug 21, 2014 at 3:09 AM

    Linus you’re a clown!!!

  6. daphnedoodlebug - Aug 21, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    Linus..when did TS tell his crew he was going to teach the kid a lesson? Before the race? After the accident ? You are aware the only communication Sprint drivers have is a one way ear bug from race control to let teams know about cautions don’t you? As far as a GoPro camera when did the team take it…. Or the right rear tire off? There are no “pits” or garages in Sprint racing.. It’s all in the open…I’m just wondering where you got a your expertise ? Considering Stewart was escorted off the track by officials when did all this secret communication occur? The police confiscated both cars..( and have since released them back to teams) so I’m just wondering when all the covert actions happened!

    • indycarseries500 - Aug 21, 2014 at 8:59 AM

      He’s just mad Tony wouldn’t sign an autograph for him.

    • linusmathews1967 - Aug 21, 2014 at 11:29 AM

      Well, since he had a radio he must have known about the caution. Which begs the question why was he riding so high? He cannot claim he did not know about the accident upon approaching it.

      There was an eyewitness account by Timothy Burke of the tire being removed next to his race hauler. The camera was also observed by Burke and others. Tmz, citing multiple sources, reported that Tony always recorded his Sprint Car. This all happened according to the witness next to Tony’s trailer.

      Care to cite your sources for these claims?
      “Considering Stewart was escorted off the track by officials when did all this secret communication occur? The police confiscated both cars..( and have since released them back to teams)”. Where did you get this from?

      • ddmotorsports - Aug 21, 2014 at 2:35 PM

        TMZ? Are for serious? That is your “source”? Hearsay? Get outta here with all that garbage and BS.

      • linusmathews1967 - Aug 21, 2014 at 7:30 PM


        Do yo know what an Ad Hominem Circumstantial argument is? You sure know how to make one.

    • linusmathews1967 - Aug 21, 2014 at 1:21 PM

      The reported communication occurred right after Stewart put Ward into the wall. The track rules mandate that you must have a one-way radio tuned to a specific frequency. But, there are no bans on the use of a two-way radio or the use of a spotter. So, why didn’t the Sheriff collect any of the audio evidence? Something is not right here.

      http://canandaiguamotorsportspark dot com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/generalrules.pdf

      Lastly for all of you who want to blame the victim in this case. There is also no rule against getting out of your car at this track.

      • indycarseries500 - Aug 21, 2014 at 3:57 PM

        No bans, doesn’t mean he had one, don’t see why he would. Who reported this “communication” anyway? Sprint car teams sometimes have to remove the right rear to fit the car on the trailer. The GoPro would’ve been on the left side of the car, assuming it was there, and it wouldn’t have helped the investigation besides how do you know authorities don’t have the video?

      • linusmathews1967 - Aug 21, 2014 at 7:28 PM

        When the Sheriff was asked about the camera, he claimed not to know about it. It was also reported that no audio or video evidence was taken into custody by the Sheriff. There is definitely something not right about this case. I believe that we are witnessing our corrupt justice system at work. Stewart’s big money is buying justice.

  7. bigcat14fan - Aug 25, 2014 at 11:20 PM

    Cmon man TMZ u have got to be kidding me first of all Tony didnt wreck the kid and second of all he wasnt the only one to about hit the guy and since we are posting wild speculation i heard the kid was high and thats why we dont know his toxicology see we can do this all night long i trust the sheriff is doing a good investigation bc it doesnt take three weeks to cover something u my friend are a stain on humanity

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