Tony Stewart waited three weeks to return to the NASCAR track after being involved in a fatal crash, but his first race back ended prematurely as a wreck forced him to the garage.
Stewart raced in Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500, his first race since being involved in a fatal accident August 9. Stewart was competing in a sprint-car race in Canandaigua, New York, when 20-year-old driver Kevin Ward Jr. ran onto the track to confront Stewart. The NASCAR driver could not avoid Ward, striking and killing him.
Before the race this week Tony Stewart talked about the crash, saying it was an incident that will affect him for the rest of his life.
“This has 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,” said Stewart. “This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one 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.”
Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood emphasized that it was Stewart who decided when to come back.
“For Tony, it’s all about the healing process, and that’s why he’s in the car,” Frood said.
In Sunday’s race, Stewart blew his right front tire on lap 173 and hit the wall, causing considerable damage to his car. Afterward, he apologized to crew members.
“Sorry guys, you deserve better than this,” he was heard on his radio.
“We got off to a good start. We went into today with hopes of finishing pretty well and possibly a win, but it just didn’t work out in our favor.”
“It’s really good to have [Tony] back…. It’s kind of his homecoming back. We wish we could’ve had a better result and effort, but we’ll try to get it done at Richmond [next Saturday].”
Tony Stewart now faces considerable pressure, needing a win in next week’s race to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.