Tony Stewart will return to the racetrack this weekend for Sunday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup competition at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Stewart’s return ends a three-race hiatus taken after the star driver struck and killed a fellow driver during a dirt track race.
Stewart hasn’t raced since his car struck 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. on August 9 at a sprint cup race in upstate New York. The three-time champion pulled out of the NASCAR race at Watkins Glen the next day, as well as the races at Michigan and Bristol Motor Speedway.
Since then, Stewart has made only one comment to the media, in which he said “there aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.”
ESPN reports that the NASCAR driver was described by police as “visibly shaken” after Ward’s death. He has been in seclusion since then. Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood explained emphasis was on giving Tony Stewart time to get him “in a better place than he is.”
NASCAR released a statement saying the driver was eligible to return to the sport because he “has received all necessary clearances required to return to all racing activities.” The organization will have no further comment on Stewart’s situation until president Mike Helton speaks Friday afternoon.
Stewart’s peers have been protective of him as questions emerged in the aftermath of the accident. They told reporters it was painful that Stewart was grieving in private and cut off communication with many of them. The driver is expected to address the media Friday for the first time since the fatal crash.
USA Today notes that NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell stated that the sport “has remained in constant contact with his race team and we will stay very close to this situation as Stewart returns to competition.”
SHR executive vice president Brett Frood stated two weeks ago that Stewart was “grieving…. It will be up to Tony when he’s ready to get back in the car.” Jeff Burton replaced Stewart in the car for the Michigan race.
A spokesman told USA Today Sports that Tony Stewart’s sponsor Mobil 1 will have its logos on the car as usual on Sunday. Further information is expected during Friday’s news conference at 1 pm ET. Stewart will hold a press conference, follwed by NASCAR president Mike Helton at 2 pm.
With Thursday’s announcement, it appears Tony Stewart is ready to leave seclusion and return to the racetrack.
[Image: Sports World News]