INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Speaking in public for the first time since a fatal racing accident in upstate New York earlier this month, Tony Stewart said driving in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race is part of the healing process for him.
Stewart spoke publicly for the first time since the August 9 accident in which Kevin Ward Junior was killed at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“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 definitely affect my life forever,” said Stewart.
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He was reflecting publicly on the accident that took a life and changed his own.
“This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one ever has to experience in their life,” he said.
During a Super Sprints dirt track race, Stewart and Kevin Ward Junior’s cars got close and appeared to make contact. Ward’s car hit the wall. Ward got out, walked up the track and appeared to be pointing a finger and yelling at Stewart.
Ward was hit by what appears to be the right rear tire of Stewart’s car and was killed. Stewart hasn’t raced since.
“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,” he said. “That being said, I know that the pain and the mourning that Kevin Ward’s family and friends are experiencing is something that I can’t possibly imagine.”
Stewart says the time off has given him time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted.
“I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help get me through this difficult time,” he said.
Stewart said he understands people are looking for answers.
“However, I need to respect the ongoing investigation process and cannot answer and address the questions at this time. Emotionally I’m not sure if I could answer them anyway,” he said.
According to the Executive Vice President of Stewart-Haas racing, the decision to be in the car is 100 percent Stewart’s. Brett Frood also told reporters Stewart sent a card and flowers to Kevin Ward’s funeral, but hasn’t spoken with them yet. He said he will when it’s appropriate.