Tony Stewart back at the track, looking to heal

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 29, 2014 at 11:18 pm •  Published: August 29, 2014
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Mike Helton, president of the governing body, said NASCAR made the decision after consulting with third-party experts who "were relevant under these circumstances." He would not elaborate.

"We want to join everybody in racing in welcoming Tony back," Helton said. "He's a great asset to NASCAR. He's a great champion, a great participant in our sport."

There was no word from Ward's family on Stewart's return. A woman who answered Friday at the home of Kevin Ward Sr. said the family would not be commenting.

During an Aug. 9 sprint-car event in upstate New York, Stewart and Ward's cars bumped while racing into a turn, sending Ward's car spinning. Ward climbed from his wrecked machine and wandered onto a darkened track in a black racing suit, wanting to make his displeasure known to the three-time NASCAR champion.

One car appeared to swerve to avoid Ward, but he was struck by the back right tire of Stewart's car.

The 43-year-old Stewart pulled out of the race at nearby Watkins Glen the morning after Ward was killed, and then skipped events at Michigan and Bristol.

"I've taken the last couple of weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way," Stewart said. "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, and I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time."

Asked if it was fair to make Stewart eligible for the Chase, rival driver Denny Hamlin wavered a bit.

"It's a very vague thing," he said. "It's tough to say what's considered medical and not."

Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood said the driver sent flowers and a card to Ward's family around the time of the funeral. He hopes to meet with them at some point.

"He's been very respectful of them and their time to grieve," Frood said. "It's important for Tony to spend time with the family. I do think that will happen at the appropriate time."

Stewart said he knows there are plenty of questions surrounding Ward's death. Many of those have focused on whether he was trying to frighten a young driver who had the nerve to challenge him over a racing crash. But he emphasized that the best way for him to heal was to put on his helmet.

"Being in that car," Harvick said, "cures a lot of problems for a short time."

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963


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