Competitors Offer Support To Stewart
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on August 19, 2014 | 3:14 P.M. EST
No decison has been announced on when Tony Stewart will return to racing, but fellow competitors have offered their support. (Photo: Getty Images)
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. - Car owner Joe Gibbs says he has not talked with Tony Stewart but says his former driver has the strength to return to racing.
“I would love at some point be able to talk to him and encourage him,’’ Gibbs said Tuesday. “He’s very important to our sport. This is a horrible thing to have happened for the (Ward) family, for him. We’re all praying for them.’’
Stewart has remained secluded since Aug. 9 when he struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. in a sprint car race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. The Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff’s Department continues to investigate the incident.
Stewart’s only public comments since came in a statement the day after the incident. He has not raced since the accident, missing NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Watkins Glen and Michigan. No announcement has been made on Stewart’s status for Saturday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“Right now, I’m thinking if I’m him in his shoes, I don’t even know when I would return to racing because I don’t know when I would be mentally capable of being 100 percent on the racetrack after something like that,’’ former teammate Denny Hamlin said.
Comments from Gibbs and Hamlin follow those from other competitors, including car owner Rick Hendrick and Stewart’s teammate, Kevin Harvick. Both Hendrick and Harvick said Sunday they had not talked to Stewart.
“Tony's got a lot of good folks around him,’’ Hendrick said. “I've told them I'm there if they need me.’’
Harvick defends Stewart against the media’s coverage.
“I think the hardest part for me has been the way the whole media thing has shaken down,’’ Harvick said. “It's an absolute tragic accident that has happened on both sides of the fence.
“You have one young man who is dead. You've got a guy that we know and are part of an organization that is just getting a lot of just crazy press.
“I've known Tony Stewart for a long time. You look, you know, you see what happened. I know for sure that Tony Stewart is not going to run over somebody that's on a racetrack. I don't think there's anybody in this garage that would.
“You have just a lot of unknowledgeable people reporting on a situation that know absolutely nothing about racing. It's just really unfortunate, the perception that has been given to him. I know he'll stay strong and fight and he'll get the right people and do all the right things.’’