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How NASCAR determined Tony Stewart was ready to race again

Aug 29, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

HAMPTON, Ga. — Tony Stewart didn’t just wake up Friday morning and decide he was going to return to NASCAR racing.

Rather, NASCAR officials required that Stewart followed procedures and protocols that included him being evaluated by outside professionals.

NASCAR president Mike Helton said the sanctioning body kept in “constant contact” with Stewart-Haas Racing officials during Stewart’s nearly three-week absence and self-imposed seclusion since the Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy.

Once NASCAR learned Stewart felt he was ready to go back to racing, he had to be evaluated by several professionals before the sanctioning body would clear him to return to the racetrack.

“The reinstatement process doesn’t begin until the competitor is ready to come back,” Helton said. “That’s what we’ve been through this week.”

MORE: Helton: Tony Stewart still eligible for Chase, but must win to get in

He further explained how the process works:

“As typical, our process calls for us to rely on third party experts to assure us that a NASCAR driver or a NASCAR member is ready to return,” Helton said. “All those forms of processes were met and we cleared him based on those third party inputs from experts.

“… When it comes to the assurances that a driver or a NASCAR member is ready to return, we’re going to rely on outside experts.”

When pressed on whether Stewart had to undergo psychological or psychiatric examinations, Helton refused to get into specifics.

“We received the ones that we felt were relevant under the circumstances,” he said.

NASCAR had the option to keep Stewart sidelined until the ongoing police investigation into the tragic accident that claimed the life of young Kevin Ward Jr., but decided to allow Stewart back on the racetrack.

“We made our decisions based on the circumstances we’ve got currently,” Helton said. “And I think most everyone in this room understands at NASCAR, our effort, our scope of responsibility and authority is limited to the NASCAR community.

“We take the current circumstances that we are dealt with and make what we hope to be the best absolute conclusion. That’s what we’re talking about today, is the current set of circumstances and our reaction to them.”

MORE: Full transcript of Mike Helton press conference at Atlanta

Once NASCAR was satisfied that Stewart met its protocol to return to the track, he was cleared to race at Atlanta after missing the previous three events at Watkins Glen, Michigan and Bristol.

“I think particularly those of us that follow this sport every weekend know that driver’s healing processes are unique,” Helton said. “But they are racecar drivers, and a lot of times getting back in a racecar is something they shoot to do as quickly as they can.

“So once Tony decided to come back, we then had to go through the policies and the procedures and the steps that we’ve historically built over time to make the absolute most correct decision we could make under the circumstances we were handed.”

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  1. astrongus - Aug 29, 2014 at 3:23 PM

    “I think particularly those of us that follow this sport every weekend know that driver’s healing processes are unique,” Helton said. “But they are racecar drivers, and a lot of times getting back in a racecar is something they shoot to do as quickly as they can.”……………..Really? While a family grieves death and while a criminal investigation looms? This is very insensitive to the Ward family. Time heals and Nascar and Tony Stewart should have given this some time…..

    • indycarseries500 - Aug 29, 2014 at 4:12 PM

      You know nothing about racing, do you?

      • moezilla - Aug 29, 2014 at 5:32 PM

        Astrongus knows everything about racing! I mean, why else would he have commented on every single Tony Stewart story to come across this website since the night of the accident? Although, I am confused why I can’t ever remember seeing his name on the comment boards before this accident….HMMMMM, it’s a mystery.

    • techmeister1 - Aug 30, 2014 at 3:41 PM

      astrongus is on a mission to convict Stewart via forum posts. It’s ignorant but typical of people who can’t accept that Stewart is the second victim in this terrible tragedy. astrongus wants the world to judge Stewart by astrongus’s beliefs. Everyone grieves differently and not necessarily according to astronus’s beliefs.

      As the police have stated over and over there is no evidence to suggest any criminal intent by any party in this terrible tragedy.

      In addition it’s not just Stewart trying to find a means to deal with Kevin’s death that he is being falsely accused of, Stewart also has legal obligations to his sponsors to race. Most people understand this was a terrible accident caused by Kevin’s poor decision to go after Stewart on a live race track. Reasonable people do not use every action by Stewart as a means to try and prosecute an innocent man like astrongus and other people choose to do.

      The unscrupulous will continue to hate even after Stewart is found to have no culpability for Kevin’s unfortunate death.

  2. titansbro - Aug 30, 2014 at 6:25 AM

    I don’t watch racing, but I grew up around it & know it pretty well. Ward didn’t deserve to die but it’s he did it to himself. Tony Stewart should be able to continue his life. Sitting out a few more races isn’t going to make Ward’s family feel any better.

  3. worknman24hours - Aug 30, 2014 at 9:48 AM

    How NASCAR decided Tony was ready to race?


    The organization Tony owns and drives for makes NASCAR truck loads of money.

    If Tony is not in the car for the chase,his team is not eligible for alot of the sponsors money it is contracted for and that NASCAR gets a large chunk of in the process.

    Plus,it will make great interest in the races as people tune in to see Tony either win or lose as he’s in the crosshairs of a legal investigation over this.

    So,this is about MONEY.

    • abtx79 - Aug 30, 2014 at 4:00 PM

      Money? Do you just post on here cause you just have nothing else to do? It’s Saturday; go for a bike ride or something. Cause you have no clue in regard to NASCAR/Stewart-Haas Racing, etc….

      1st. Stewart Haas Racing is owned by Tony Stewart, who is worth over a hundred million. The other owner is Gene Haas, who is a billionaire and is easily the wealthiest owner in NASCAR. The last thing these two will ever worry about is money. NASCAR does not care who races in any of their three racing series’. They make money hand over fist with their TV contracts; if Tony Stewart never raced again, NASCAR would not lose a penny.

      2. Stewart’s primary sponsor is Bass Pro Shops, who’s owner/CEO just happens to be one of Tony Stewart’s best friends. So that sponsorship is not going anywhere.

      Please explain to us how Tony Stewart being back in the car makes NASCAR money? I’m eager to know.

      • worknman24hours - Aug 30, 2014 at 8:00 PM

        The clue you need to find is how the fans are attracted to staying with the racing ,watching them while the ads flow across the screen and how NASCAR makes it’s money is all the facets of the series it controls.

        I’m riding my exercise bike as I type this.

        So there!

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