With three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart sitting out another week following his fatal incident with 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr., the NASCAR community continues to react to the situation.
Stewart’s car struck and killed Ward last Saturday night following an accident between the two during a sprint car race at a dirt track in upstate New York. Across the board, Stewart’s fellow competitors said they send their thoughts and prayers to everyone involved, while they also express their support of Stewart as he goes through this difficult time.
On Friday at Michigan International Speedway, Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood said Stewart is "surrounded right now by his closest friends and family"as he continues to grieve.
Six-time champion Jimmie Johnson said he has tried to reach out to Stewart, but has not heard back from him.
"I just feel for him and for Gene Haas, the team, the uncertainty that lies there, certainly from the Tony-standpoint; and then the Ward family,"said Johnson. "As much as I’m concerned for Tony and his well-being, the pain and sorrow that the Ward family and friends are going through. It’s such a sad, sad set of circumstances; certainly a hot button for different sides and different reasons and different opinions."
While Stewart has faced criticism from some, Johnson feels the incident was "competely an accident."
"I think once Tony is able to talk, or does talk, I think a lot of us and many people out there will feel better hearing his side of the situation," Johnson added. "I know what I believe happened. I think it was completely an accident. So, in time we’ll see; when Tony is able to talk and how things go from there."
Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate and long-time Stewart competitor Jeff Gordon called the incident "unfortunate"and a "terrible tragedy, "and said he has watched the video of the incident "many, many times" to try and understand what happened. He also pointed out unfortunately these tragic incidents often bring the most attention to the sport.
"Through the years that I’ve been in racing in general, not just NASCAR, it’s unfortunate that the times when we get the most attention and most controversial opinions or people really engaging, is when it seems like there’s a tragic accident or incident that causes that,"he said. "I’ve been unfortunately involved where I’ve been in races where I’ve seen lives lost and sometimes it’s a failure, a judgment, or just a complete accident. And yet, that does seem to draw the attention of others outside the sport and in getting a lot within the sport.
"You wish that there were things that we could do that were like a five-wide finish on the final lap of a Daytona 500 that could draw that kind of attention in a positive way, and that it doesn’t take something like this to garner that kind of attention."
Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards added that it is impossible to understand exactly what happened in the incident, but that everyone involved deserves thoughts and prayers at this time.
"I think to frame this in the light that we understand what happened I think is wrong," said Edwards. "I will say that really clearly. I have been racing my whole life you guys. I have been around racing my whole life. I don’t know what happened. I guess the people that know what happened or know what everybody was thinking must be a lot smarter than me.
"To me, for me personally — I can’t obviously tell everybody what they should do, but it is not right for me to discuss what happened because I don’t know. The things I do know is that was a tragedy and my thoughts and prayers are with everybody involved. It seems like the Ward family are good people and I can say that if anybody in this room — anybody in a 10-mile radius of here needed something — we all know Tony Stewart would help them with it. Those are the things we know. That is all I have to say about that."
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