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Could Tony Stewart return to race this weekend at Atlanta?

Aug 28, 2014, 12:49 PM EDT

Could Tony Stewart‘s three-week absence from NASCAR Sprint Cup racing in light of the Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy be coming to an end?

A representative for Stewart-Haas Racing told Thursday morning that any update or announcement on who will drive the No. 14 SHR Chevrolet at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend will not come until at least late this afternoon.

This is somewhat of a change in the way the announcements the last two weeks that Jeff Burton would sub for Stewart have taken place, lending credence that Stewart may very well be ending his self-imposed exile.

Of course, that’s speculation at this point.

There’s also the question about whether Stewart would climb back into his race car before the official investigation into the tragedy is completed.

The Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff’s Office told there are no plans to release either any new information or the final results of its investigation into the incident on Thursday.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the completed report on the results of the investigation could still be released Friday, essentially paving the way for Stewart to get back in his race car, particularly if the investigation does not result in any criminal charges against him.

[ RELATED: Kevin Harvick riled at Tony Stewart portrayal in Kevin Ward Jr.  tragedy ]

Sheriff’s officials said early in the investigation of the August 9 tragedy that they expected the probe to take about two weeks, and we’re in that timeline window now.

Earlier this week, a sheriff’s office spokesman said the probe is in the final stages of “finishing up.”

Given that SHR has not named Burton or another replacement driver to once again fill in for Stewart at this point, it’s conceivable that the longer a status update is delayed by the team, the more likely it would appear Stewart might return.

It also would give the team, NASCAR and AMS officials more time to prepare for the invariable media onslaught and any resulting public statements from Stewart, who has not commented on the tragedy other than a prepared statement that was released the day after Ward was killed during a sprint car race at a dirt track in upstate New York.

In a sense, coming back at Atlanta could be best for Stewart and NASCAR in terms of timing and the invariable distraction and media attention that would result.

[ RELATED: NASCAR America on Tony Stewart’s possible return ]

If he were to wait to return until next week’s race at Richmond, his presence and the expected resulting large media turnout would significantly distract and take away from the race and the finalization of those drivers who will make the expanded 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup field.

It’s also unlikely Stewart would delay his return until for the first Chase race at Chicagoland Speedway for essentially the same reason.

Stewart has long and deep ties to Atlanta Motor Speedway, which has been one of his more successful racetracks. In 26 career Sprint Cup starts at the 1.5-mile, high-speed AMS, Stewart has three wins, 10 top-5 and 15 top-10 finishes.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

  1. techmeister1 - Aug 28, 2014 at 1:08 PM

    It’s silly to write articles constantly speculating as to who will drive Tony Stewarts car. When the team makes the announcement, then write a worthwhile story.

    • dalejunebugfan - Aug 28, 2014 at 1:30 PM

      Stewart and the “team” have nothing to do with the decision of when or if Stewart races again.

      Ontario County, New York District Attorney, Grand Jury, The Ward Family, Mr. Haas, Mr. Hendrick, lawyers and #14 sponsors will ultimately make the decision when or if Stewart ever races again in NASCAR

  2. dalejunebugfan - Aug 28, 2014 at 1:22 PM

    No way in hell Stewart dares to show his dyed-black-hair head at @AMSupdates or any NASCAR track this year.

    Before Stewart can race again, even if he’s found not-guilty at his trial, Stewart needs to face the cameras and answer hundreds of questions from infuriated and outraged NASCAR fans and ALL media.

    Not just softball Q’s from the lame-steam NASCAR media who have been Stewart “apologists” from the beginning of this scandal.

    • onextinter123onextinter123 - Aug 28, 2014 at 1:56 PM

      Hey, dalejunebugfan, There will not be any criminal evidence of any kind or it would have already been presented by the DA’s office. These people are out for blood to take any blame for the tragedy away from their sons responsibility in the incident. Tony should not have to answer any questions on the case because that is what the investigation is for. With the evident hard-on you have you really need a girlfriend.

      • dalejunebugfan - Aug 28, 2014 at 2:07 PM

        Actually, it’s the opposite.

        If Ontario County, NY District Attorney and Grand Jury had NO criminal evidence proving Mr. Stewart’s culpability in the killing death of 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. the Sheriff would have announced that weeks ago.

        The longer the 2nd Degree Murder or Reckless Homicide investigation continues, the more likely it is Stewart will be charged with criminal felony offenses.

    • 88dalejrfan88 - Aug 28, 2014 at 2:03 PM

      You are just another one of those idiots who feels the need to speak about a subject of which you have no knowledge. You may think you know what happened but just by what you wrote, you don’t. You’re just another hater. With that attitude Dale Jr. would be ashamed to have you as a fan, Please turn in your Jr Nation membership card and hit the road.

      • dalejunebugfan - Aug 28, 2014 at 2:11 PM

        Join us DaleJunebugBug fans in demanding #Justice For #KevinWardJr! #ArrestTonyStewart #NASCAR #BanTonyStewart

        #BOYCOTT #14 Sponsors Mobil, Bass Pro, Coke, Chevy and GoDaddy.

        Join us in Demanding NASCAR give Stewart the full “Mayfield” treatment and Sponsors dump #14 like NAPA did with the Waltrip-Truex-Bowyer-Richmond cheating scandal!

      • hondo5001 - Aug 28, 2014 at 7:35 PM

        I sure hope that all fans of auto racing will ignore any and all calls to boycott those sponsors who provide funding for our sport to be what it is. Just because a driver was involved in an issue on the track, lets not punish those who volunteer the resources. Please. Find other ways to voice your concerns, but always support our sponsors. Please.

    • chaparral2f - Aug 28, 2014 at 2:37 PM

      Well, you and your ilk will have to face questions by thousands of likewise infuriated fans who want to confront those who think they are judge, jury and executioner. Tony won’t have to answer questions by people like you because we will be there to screen you off. What are you, NASCAR’s version of Westboro Baptist Church?

  3. prov1x - Aug 28, 2014 at 1:49 PM

    You are an idiot. Go back to your Mom’s basement and play your video games. You are clueless.

  4. azrx - Aug 28, 2014 at 2:05 PM

    Jerry…you are an idiot. Your article makes no sense.

    “That doesn’t mean, however, that the completed report on the results of the investigation could still be released Friday, essentially paving the way for Stewart to get back in his race car, particularly if the investigation does not result in any criminal charges against him.”

    How does the report being released on Friday pave the way for Stewart to get back in his car?

  5. dalejunebugfan - Aug 28, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    Question posed by the author, “Could Stewart return and race this weekend at Atlanta?”

    Answer: HELL NO ! He better not!

    Stewart shows up Atlanta Infuriated and Outraged NASCAR Fans likely to torch #14 hauler , lynch Stewart and string him up as revenge for his responsibility in the killing death of 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr.

    • stephsmom1 - Aug 28, 2014 at 3:56 PM

      You appear to be a total idiot. Your hate mongering does nothing to honor the young man that died, the sport you “claim” to support, or yourself.
      While I am not a Tony Stewart fan, the garbage you are spouting made me angry enough to actual register on this site to reply.
      Tony Stewart has a history of hot headed passion, most good racers do. He also has shown the heart of a true man. I cannot fathom anyone ever deliberately using their vehicle as a some are saying, let alone a professional driver.
      Your lack of empathy for both sides, and spewing of garbage must make your parents so very proud of you. The old saying “If you can’t say anything positive, and must spout hurt, just shut up” goes especially for people like you.
      Both sides are hurting beyond belief at this time-let them ALL grieve in peace.

  6. dalejunebugfan - Aug 28, 2014 at 4:20 PM

    We can understand the Stewart “apologists” who want Stewart to get a fair trial. The Stewart apologists we will not tolerate are the Kevin Ward Jr. haters who float the false, disgusting narrative that Kevin somehow committed suicide.

    As to the horse manure line, regurgitated like puke that Stewart is “grieving”:

    If true, then tell us why at Watkins Glen, less than 9 hours after Stewart had killed Kevin, Stewart told Zipadeli to tell the media, “Business as Usual” meaning that Stewart would race?

    Then, within minutes, Stewart suddenly was too shocked to race and grieving announcing that Regan Smith would run the #14

  7. lnance2014 - Aug 28, 2014 at 7:35 PM

    I am sure Jr would not be thrilled you claim to be his fans but are making threats to his friend. Tony is back and did not intentionally kill that young man. You pos wanna be NASCAR fans are sickening. Bet your parents are so proud. Get a life. Did you know you can go to jail for those threats. No worries you couldn’t afford a ticket to the race let alone get near Tony or his hauler. Go jack with somebody else.

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