On Friday, NASCAR star Tony Stewart, speaking for the first time since he was involved in a fatal accident that killed Kevin Ward Jr. on a dirt track three weeks ago, said Ward’s death “has been one of the toughest tragedies I’ve ever had to deal with, both professionally and personally,” and it “will affect my life forever.”
Stewart, who will return to racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday in his #14 car, said he feels a “sadness and a pain that I hope no one has to experience” before adding that “the pain and mourning that Kevin Ward’s friends and family are experiencing is something that I can’t possibly imagine.”
Looking a bit rattled and reading from a prepared statement, the three-time NASCAR champion named each member of the Ward family and said he is thinking about and praying for them every day. Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood said Stewart has sent flowers and a card to the family for Ward’s memorial service and has been “been very respectful of them and their time to grieve.”
“I do know that it will be, it is very important for Tony to spend time with the family and I do believe that will happen at the appropriate time,” Frood said.
Stewart also thanked his friends and family for their support during this “tough” and “emotional” time in addition to the NASCAR community for their “overwhelming” support.
He said he took time away from racing “out of respect to Kevin and his family and to cope with the accident in my own way.” Stewart said the time away from the NASCAR community made him “think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted.”
“I miss my team and my teammates. I miss being back in the race car. Being back in the car with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time,” he said.
Stewart said he understood that everyone had “many questions and want many answers,” but he needed to respect the ongoing investigation. Stewart said he wasn’t sure if he was at a point where he “could answer ’em anyway” at this time.
“There will be a day when I can sit here and answer the questions,” he said.
As Breitbart Sports has noted, the “Ontario County Police Department is still reportedly investigating the incident and has previously stated that there was no evidence at the time of the incident to press criminal charges against Stewart.”
Here is Stewart’s full statement:
“This is been one of the toughest tragedies I’ve ever had to deal with, both professionally and personally. This is something that will definitely affect my life forever. This is a sadness and a pain I hope no one ever has to experience in their life. 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. I want Kevin’s father, Kevin Sr., his mother Pam and his sisters Christi, Kayla and Katelyn to know that every day I’m thinking about and praying for them.
“The racing community is a large family. As you guys know and everyone’s saddened with this tragedy. I want to thank all my friends and family for their support through this tough, emotional time. And the support from the NASCAR community, my partners, all of our employees has been overwhelming. I’ve taken the last couple weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way. It’s given me the time to think 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 that being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.
“I also understand that all of you have many questions and want a lot of answers. But 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. 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. Thank you.”