Tony Stewart said he would never be the same after striking and killing 20-year-old driver Kevin Ward Jr. during a sprint-car race in Upstate New York.
Stewart was driving in the race in Canandaigua on August 9, one day before a scheduled NASCAR race that weekend in Watkins Glen. During the race, Stewart ran into Ward’s car, causing the younger driver to spin out.
Ward responded by getting out of his car and walking onto the track, where he pointed at Stewart’s car. The car in front of Stewart swerved to avoid Ward, but Stewart could not, and he struck and killed Ward.
Tony Stewart sat out the next three Sprint Cup races after the crash, but now is ready to return.
But Stewart said the tragedy 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 said it was up to Stewart to decide when he was ready to race again.
“For Tony, it’s all about the healing process, and that’s why he’s in the car,” Frood said.
Though Ward’s family faulted Stewart for his aggressive driving, witnesses have said that the NASCAR driver could not have avoided striking Ward as he ran onto the track.
Cory Sparks, a driver who was a few cars behind Stewart at the time of the crash, said Tony Stewart could not have avoided Kevin Ward Jr.
“From what I saw, Tony did everything in his power to turn down away from Kevin to avoid him.”
Tony Stewart will now return to action this weekend, racing in the Oral-B USA 500 on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET.