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Tony Stewart: ‘This is a sadness and pain that I hope no one has to experience in their life’

Aug 29, 2014, 1:37 PM EDT

HAMPTON, Ga. – A visibly somber Tony Stewart, at times bordering on tears, faced the media and the NASCAR world for the first time in nearly three weeks Friday afternoon at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Stewart has been in seclusion for nearly three weeks since the tragic accident that claimed the life of 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. in a sprint car race at a upstate New York dirt track on August 9.

“This has been one of the toughest tragedies I’ve ever had to deal with both professionally and personally, and this is something that will affect my life forever,” Stewart read from a statement he personally wrote.

“This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one has to experience in their life,” he continued. “With that being said, I know the pain and the mourning that Kevin Ward’s family and friends are experiencing is something I can’t possibly imagine.”

Stewart addressed every member of Ward’s immediate family, saying, “I want Kevin’s father, Kevin Sr., and his mother Pam, his sisters Christi, Cavanaugh and Katelyn to know that every day I’m thinking about them and praying for them.”

MORE: Tony Stewart to return to race at Atlanta this weekend

Stewart did not answer questions from the media.

“I also understand that all of you have many questions and you want a lot of answers,” Stewart read from his statement. “However, I need to respect the ongoing investigation process and cannot answer and address the questions at this time. And I’m not sure if I could answer them anyway.”

MORE: Kurt Busch, Danica Patrick glad to see boss, teammate and friend Tony Stewart back in race car

Stewart did not shed any light on what he’s done while being in seclusion, but expressed that after nearly three weeks, being back in the race car is the best thing for him right now.

“I’ve taken the last couple of weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way,” Stewart said. “It’s given me the time about life and how easy it is to take it for granted. I miss my team, my teammates and I miss being back in the race car. I think being back in the car with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.”

MORE: Tony Stewart’s return to NASCAR may be one of hardest things he’s ever done

Stewart’s part of the 10-minute press conference lasted just under 2 minutes, 30 seconds, while Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood took approximately a half-dozen questions.

“I’m here to race this weekend and I appreciate your respect and there will be a day when I can sit here and answer the questions,” Stewart concluded.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

  1. wrlegrand - Aug 29, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    I am supportive of Tony Stewart in this matter, for the most part. However, I think this “availability” was very poorly executed. I understand that he cannot say much for fear that it will be taken out of context or used against him, but this was far too scripted. They would have been just a well to release another statement of what he read until which time he could actually speak for himself.

    • tricia356 - Aug 29, 2014 at 7:30 PM

      This is not about Stewart. If he wants to return to racing OK, but stay away from the microphones. The more he says the more damage he causes. This is NOT Stewart’s tragedy. The tragedy is a young man named Kevin who is dead. Period.

      • jxegh - Aug 29, 2014 at 8:08 PM

        Stewart has been a driver to show his emotions, especially on the race track. He’s also been know to step out of his race car on the track to show his displeasure with another driver. I wonder what would be said is Ward Jr. had hit Stewart?

        Anyway, nice to see you so broken up over the life of a young racer.

  2. jxegh - Aug 29, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    I appreciate Stewart coming out and facing the media. He truly seems shaken by this whole tragedy. One thing he said cements my opinion he should sit out a little longer and why he can’t answer any questions. There is an ongoing investigation! Any other professional athlete would not be participating until the process was complete.

  3. astrongus - Aug 29, 2014 at 1:50 PM

    A young man lost his life as the two of them were tempered, and now Tony Stewart is concerned about is racing…….It’s only been weeks, we are in the same month…..You have got to be kidding me……Tony Stewart killed the kid racing and now wants to return to racing after only several weeks and before the public is notified about the criminal investigation….?????

    • wethog66 - Aug 29, 2014 at 2:20 PM

      Its easy to comment from the cheap seats, far away from the pain and guilt Stewart is clearly feeling.

      • astrongus - Aug 29, 2014 at 2:30 PM

        Wet – I pray for peace for Tony as well……The pain of death, of a loved one, is so much more than what Tony is feeling….The family is in very early stages of grieving…. I especially pray for peace for the Ward family.

      • wethog66 - Aug 29, 2014 at 2:34 PM

        I am sure both the Family and Stewart appreciate your prayers.

        My point is who better knows when it is time to climb back into a race car after something like this? My guess is Tony Stewart and that’s all that matters.

    • moezilla - Aug 29, 2014 at 2:23 PM

      Hey Astrongus, did Tony Stewart steal your girlfriend in high school?

      • astrongus - Aug 29, 2014 at 2:32 PM

        Moe – Does Tony Stewart steal or something?…..Those are your words not mine.

      • moezilla - Aug 29, 2014 at 3:48 PM

        I was just referring to your obvious hatred for the man. I mean, besides running over a fellow racer on track, has he done anything else that just really got on your nerves?

    • jaycabby2007 - Aug 29, 2014 at 2:34 PM

      tony didnt kill the kid, The kid stepped in the path of a race car.. The kid Knew better but the kid wanted to show off by picking a fight with a nascar star and he got his 15 min of fame, i hate the young man died but he did do this to himself by doing exactly what a driver is told not to do on the track during a race, yellow flag or not, Remember what happened when a driver ran into the back of the track drier, You do not run around the race track when there are race cars on the track, they limited siteas it is with the saftey equipment they have to use let alone a pissed off kid running in front of cars like a rookie with a temper problem, he should have went to tonys pit and hit tony in the face after the race if he was that pissed, Im sure Tony would have rather the kid did that instead of what happened

    • kidderjeffrey - Aug 29, 2014 at 3:05 PM

      There’s a difference between Tony ‘ killing a kid racing’ and a kid walking into the side of Tony’s car while he’s racing. He can’t do anything else to help Ward’s family, and sitting out more races doesn’t benefit anybody. As far as speaking for himself……he wrote the statement. ‘Nuff said……

    • rpearlston - Aug 29, 2014 at 3:37 PM

      So, you missed the part in which Mr Stewart talked about thinking about and praying for that young man’s family every day. You missed the part in which he talked about this accident haunting him for the rest of his life.

      You also seemed to miss the statement from an official of that particular circuit, in which he explained that they urge all of their drivers to stay IN THE VEHICLE if at all possible after every collision.

      There is something criminal here, but it has nothing to do with Mr Stewart. It’s your libelous statement.

      • moondog440 - Aug 29, 2014 at 6:52 PM

        What part is libelous? He stated an opinion. Right or wrong, it’s his to own. Every single person that states a view on here is doing the same thing, as the investigation is ongoing and incomplete. Not one person can state with 100% certainty what the case will hold. I appreciate that this is an emotional issue, but it’s not a case of libel…

  4. billsfaninhouston - Aug 29, 2014 at 2:17 PM

    Even after a tragic accident like this, life has to move forward. Even if he were to take a year off, there would still be those questioning his return to racing. I wholeheartedly agree with his decision to get back in the car and do what he can to return to normalcy. There is an investigation, but let that play out. I’m still of the opinion that Tony did not see Kevin walking down in the path of the racecars. It was dark, the other car obscured from his view and, ultimately, Kevin shouldn’t have been in the path of the racecars. Time to move on…..

  5. mortymcfearson - Aug 29, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    It’s a miracle that every single driver managed to avoid hitting Kevin Ward until Tony Stewart made his way around the track.

    • wethog66 - Aug 29, 2014 at 2:23 PM

      Finally, an eye witness to this incident who could clearly see the race line where this tragedy took place.

      Oh wait…

      • mortymcfearson - Aug 29, 2014 at 2:55 PM

        So you don’t think it is a miracle?

        I guess it’s possible that all the other drivers were exercising level-headed caution.

  6. wrlegrand - Aug 29, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    Per Mike Helton: A win gets Stewart into the Chase…

    • dalejunebugfan - Aug 29, 2014 at 3:40 PM

      Predictable safe NASCAR position especially since Stewart has about = chance of winning Atlanta or Richmond as Morgan Sheppard

  7. dalejunebugfan - Aug 29, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    Shameful disgraceful sickening selfish egotistical hateful @TonyStewart statement playing the victim. May #tonystewart rot in #Hell #NASCAR

    • wethog66 - Aug 29, 2014 at 2:36 PM

      Wow, you used #’s and everything. You really mean what you say…

      Having said all that, I bet if twitter existed back in Feb. 2001 you would be sending the same crap to Sterling Marlin. Have another.

      • dalejunebugfan - Aug 29, 2014 at 3:25 PM

        Who F is Stering Martin? Ain’t never here’d of him. BTW, started following NASCAR in ’03 as Ford, Roush, Kurt Busch fans.

    • revelation85 - Aug 29, 2014 at 3:26 PM

      John 8:7 let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

  8. dalejunebugfan - Aug 29, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    Sunday night let’s hope Carl Edwards does to Tony Stewart same thing Carl did to Bucky Brad a few years ago here at Atlanta.

    • wethog66 - Aug 29, 2014 at 2:37 PM

      And here is hoping you haven’t produced off-spring yet.

  9. techmeister1 - Aug 29, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    The comments by some folks here are a perfect example of the ignorance, bias and stupidity that results from hate and rush to judgment without having any facts to make an informed opinion. This is precisely why Stewart should not make any further comments because there will always be unscrupulous and clueless haters looking to create their own version of what they think transpired in this tragedy and who they believe Tony Stewart is, even if they aren’t even remotely close to reality in their beliefs and hate.

    • rpearlston - Aug 29, 2014 at 8:56 PM

      Unfortunately, all of those “unscrupulous and clueless haters” will still find ways to display their blatant stupidity and jealousy (not of someone having killed another, but of the skill, perseverance and blind luck involved ion being a world class performer in any context) by speculating about any misfortune, particularly in the the context of a lack of information. They simply can’t tolerate, among other things, waiting for an investigation to be complete. In fact, what you and I understand is that when such an investigation ends up saying that this was an accident or a death by misadventure ( phrase indicating that the deceased was culpable in their own death, such as this one), they’ll reject those findings and still find Mr Stewart, or anyone who in their warped perception of the world, was the guilty party, was guilty as sin. They are, and always will be, WRONG!

      • techmeister1 - Aug 30, 2014 at 2:51 PM

        EXACTLY !!!

        The haters are going to hate and falsely accuse innocent people based not on FACTS but on their meritless beliefs because they just can’t deal with reality.

  10. dalejunebugfan - Aug 29, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    As Christians, we do not pray that harm comes to Tony Stewart for we believe in the Scriptures!

    “Never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. I will take revenge; I will pay Tony Stewart back,” says the LORD for killing #KevinWardJr

    • rpearlston - Aug 29, 2014 at 3:48 PM

      The voice of reason. Thank you.

      I suspect that many of the people here, particularly the ones who are after Mr Steward’s hide, are taking this as being the result of a deliberate action taken by Mr Stewart. It’s as though the comparison that they are making in their heads is to the gunfight at OK Corral.They are very, very wrong to do so.

      The appropriate comparison, folks, is to striking and killing anyone, ANYONE, who has walked/run out from between parked cars.

      • rpearlston - Aug 29, 2014 at 8:58 PM

        For those of you who disagree with that, I’d appreciate your attempt at an explanation. If you can’t offer a cogent one, then I await your apology.

  11. revelation85 - Aug 29, 2014 at 3:32 PM

    Romans 13:8 Owe no man anything, but to love one another, for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

  12. dalejunebugfan - Aug 29, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    Thoughts and prayers Tony Stewart has a nice, normal weekend, like getting blocked and dumped by Landon Cassill, Bliss, Gilliand etc. then hiding in the hauler from the media and getting run out of the track like a wet French poodle with his tail between his legs.

    • revelation85 - Aug 29, 2014 at 4:17 PM

      Proverbs 10:11 There is living truth in what a good man says, but the mouth of the evil man is filled with curses.

  13. witchrunner - Aug 29, 2014 at 4:02 PM

    I’ve never killed anyone in a vehicle, but I have represented some who have. Trust me, it is not an easy thing to deal with. I’ve had clients who couldn’t get back into their semis to drive even though the deaths were not their fault.

    I played the video numerous times and I’ve seen Stewart race for years and there is nothing in the video that would suggest that Stewart tried to kill the kid or that he is so cold-hearted that he is unaffected by the whole thing and is just playing a game to get back “in the game of racing” without having to worry about consequences.

    At this stage of the game, only Tony knows what he saw and when he saw it and what his reaction was. I suspect he told the cops what he remembers. But, it’s quite possible that there isn’t much memory there at this time. I see no reason not to give him the benefit of the doubt at this time. I must admit, I think it would be a good idea for NASCAR to have him evaluated to determine whether he could possibly be a danger to the other drivers, mostly along the lines of possible panic attacks. But, he’s a professional and maybe that has already been addressed.

  14. ncnativeraleigh - Aug 29, 2014 at 4:17 PM

    Tony Stewart says 100 words & fields no questions @ press conference after 3 week seclusion with lawyers & advisers healing. Brave

  15. sportfan2 - Aug 29, 2014 at 4:36 PM

    The kid made a stupid mistake by getting out of his car. BUT!!!! Tony has to live with what really happened.

    • dalejunebugfan - Aug 29, 2014 at 4:58 PM

      Probably learned that from watching some 41 year old kid get out of his car 2 years ago at Bristol and throwing his helmet at Matt Kenseth. Same stupid mistake made by Tony Stewart.

  16. immikeyt - Aug 29, 2014 at 4:46 PM

    kind of funny how tony was not upset enough sunday of Watkins glen to sit out from the start,,,it was business as usual,,,sounds like his pr department told him how ignorant that would be so he later decided to sit out,,,this is all calculated..
    had ward not gotten out of his car he would not gotten run over,,very true,,,but had the best racer on the track that night not bullied his way past ward and wrecked him this would have never happened,,
    is it possible arguably one of the best race car drivers in the world didn’t see ward on the track it possible he saw ward challenge the almighty stewart and decided to teach him a lesson? sure..
    bottom line is only doucher stewart knows

    • dalejunebugfan - Aug 29, 2014 at 5:22 PM

      Yep. Watkins Glen race morning Stewart send Zippy out to tell media “Business as Usual” Stewart will be racing. Few minutes later, after Hendrick, Haas, Mobil, Bass, Chevy saw that suddenly Stewart is too shocked to race and grieving.

      What a Friggin’ Low Class Hypocrite!

  17. John Henson - Aug 29, 2014 at 4:54 PM

    Stewart should be locked up. Anyone else would be jailed pending the completion of an investigation and a grand jury review. Stewart, though, with his millions and his fans is able to kill people and go about his business as if nothing ever happened.

    • dalejunebugfan - Aug 29, 2014 at 5:18 PM

      Good news is Stewart lost 1/2 his old fan base. More Kevin Ward Jr. Supporters than Tony Stewart apologists.

      Don’t forget, other story today says Ontario Country NY, DA-Grand Jury continuing Stewart’s 2nd Degree Murder, Manslaughter, Homicide investigation for at least 2+ more weeks. That is great news for all of us who demand #Justice #KevinWardJr

      If Stewart was innocent DA and Sheriff would have announced that 3 weeks ago.

    • jaycabby2007 - Aug 29, 2014 at 8:05 PM

      If tony would have been under the influence of something illegal, then maybe or if tony had said he was going to do something like this before the fact then maybe, But this was a accident and the kid did run into traffic and he knew better, Those big tires stick out there a country mile, The young man let his temper get the best of him and it cost him his life, i hate that it happened but there is nothing that can be done now but make sure all the race drivers understand just a little bit more about how dangerous it is to run into the path of a race car

    • rpearlston - Aug 29, 2014 at 9:03 PM

      Really? THis is the equivalent of you striking and killing someone who had run out from between parked cars. Period. Would you be locked up during an investigation under those circumstances? I thought not, and neither should Mr Stewart.

  18. dalejunebugfan - Aug 29, 2014 at 6:00 PM

    Academy Award to Tony Stewart on his deceitful, cowardly performance today in the press conference especially with all the Horse Manure, leaked to the Lame-Steam East Coast Liberal NASCAR media (espn, fox), about how Stewart had written his statement all by his fat old self.

    • rpearlston - Aug 29, 2014 at 9:21 PM

      And your proof of anything in your claim, is what? I don’t mean proof for the average idiot, but proof as in stand up in a court of law. Unless and until you have proof of anything that you’ve espoused, it is you who are shaky ground, not Mr Stewart.

      Frankly, I double-dog dare you to prove any of your allegations.

  19. safaber3 - Aug 29, 2014 at 6:08 PM

    If Kevin Ward had walked in front on one of the regulars at the New York track, nothing would have been said other than he should not have done it and the case would have been closed. However, it was a NASCAR champ who likes to go sprint car racing on his days off.

    This will not go away in Tony’s mind. It will affect him for life, and I think probably end his racing career as he will always have that split second though, “what if” when he gets into any close situation. No one know what was going through his mind that night, Was he concentrating on the restart of the race and did not see the kid jump out in front of him, or was he crowding the young man walking down the track? No one will ever know, except Tony and he may have blocked it from his memory, either situation. The main thing is if Kevin had not gotten out of his car, nothing would have happened.

    In a legal suit, what it is “reasonable doubt” and no one can say that. Tony has to deal with the pain of the night, no matter what happened. Let the media and the folks who know nothing about racing on a dark dirt track at night find another cause to kick up and let Kevin rest in peace and Tony try to move on.

  20. stagedoorjohnny - Aug 29, 2014 at 6:27 PM

    Mr. Stewart, I believe your words but your actions make them hollow and empty. Just stay away and let the process play out.
    Then you refused to answer questions but actually said that you weren’t “sure that you could answer them anyway”.
    Mr. Stewart, life is more than racing. Give it a rest for now.

    • rpearlston - Aug 29, 2014 at 9:26 PM

      If you had done something similar to this, if you had been the driver who had the misfortune to strike and kill someone who had run out from between parked cars, would you want to stay away from work until an investigation has been completel?

      What you forget here is that Mr Stewart doesn’t dive for your entertainment. He drives because it’s his his job to do so.

  21. chaparral2f - Aug 29, 2014 at 9:17 PM

    Tony showed contrition and remorse here and the pundits come out in force to attack him. He is damned if he races and he is damned by them if he doesn’t. What more can the man do? Is he supposed to kill himself for what happened to Kevin Ward? Is he supposed to withdraw from living as well? What happened to Kevin Ward was a tragedy. However, Kevin Ward is responsible for what happened to himself. A hot-headed arrogant driver took it upon himself to place himself in harm’s way. For that, it cost him his life. What we can all learn from this is that acting rashly can lead to a fatal results. I never was a Stewart supporter until now. Now, I support him fully and applaud his decision to return to racing. Time to move on. Nothing can bring back Kevin Ward and condemning Tony without the full weight of evidence only makes those people who are doing so look like morons.

    • techmeister1 - Aug 30, 2014 at 2:52 PM

      This is precisely my point in several posts… No matter what Stewart does the haters and quick to judge will find fault and try to persecute him for being in the wrong place at the wrong time when Kevin made a deadly mistake.

      • dalejunebugfan - Aug 30, 2014 at 10:51 PM

        Stewart “apologists” even worse than than the Stewart haters.

  22. worknman24hours - Aug 30, 2014 at 9:33 AM

    I think Tony would have been better served by staying off at least until next year.

    His leg still has’nt properly healed completely which tells how really nastily bad it was broken in the first place and his chase dealings are over with already anyway.

    Tony could have gone back to the races and supported his team but not raced,

    Unfortunately,everywhere Tony goes now in public he will be hounded by press people trying to ‘get the scoop’ of the first time Tony says something that could be taken completely out of context and misreported in the press.

    And Tony has a lifelong incapacity to keep his mouth shut in public.

    Until the investigation is over,Tony should have realized his actions ,after the fact ,in large part, are part of the investigation and whether charges are brought.

    Tony returning to racing while the Ward Family sits waiting for the law to bring some form of charges ( and concievably justice) in this may well make it much easier for those charges to be filed.

    The 51 posts so far in this thread show just how evenly split the public is about Tony’s guilt in this.

    In that kind of environment ,the law exists as a last word.

    And the law that runs the place around the track where Ward Jr. died has a reputation for being fair and tough and taking it’s time in getting to the bottom of things.

    Tony’s statement was pretty much all he could say about this sad incident but he should have stayed away until last year-if for anything else,out of respect for the Ward family.

    I think he’s guaranteed himself some form of minimum charge coming back before the law finally speaks it’s part.

  23. techmeister1 - Aug 30, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    It would not matter what Stewart does many ill informed and uneducated people will attack him – even though he is likely completely innocent in this terrible tragedy. These prejudice people will do all that they can to make their false beliefs a reality and to punish an innocent man for being in the wrong place at the wrong time when Kevin Ward Jr. made a fatally bad decision. Blaming Stewart for Kevin’s poor decision is unfair and wrong if he is not culpable. It will not bring Kevin back from the grave.

    • dalejunebugfan - Aug 30, 2014 at 10:48 PM

      Stewart is filth! Stewart deserves min.. 10 years at Attica, just like Kevin Ward Sr. said. Stewart whining, crying, moaning in that presser was the most sickening display ever in the history of motorsports.

      #ArrestTonyStewart #NASCAR #BanTonyStewart

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