Bass Pro Shops ‘proud to stand by’ Tony Stewart in his return

Tony Stewart (left) with Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris (right) in earlier, easier times.

Chris Graythen

One day after Tony Stewart made his first public statement on the tragic sprint car incident that claimed the life of 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr., Bass Pro Shops, one of the primary sponsors on Stewart’s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, has come out in support its driver’s return.

In a statement, Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, a regular figure at NASCAR events, offered thoughts to the company’s "friend and fishing buddy Tony Stewart" as he prepared to make his return to action in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Morris also offered condolences to the friends and family of Kevin Ward Jr.

As a part of the statement, Morris said he spent time with Stewart last week, "and it made my heart ache to see him so devastated by this incident."

A long-time supporter and sponsor in NASCAR, Morris praised Stewart’s passion and skill, but also complimented his various off-track efforts to meet with fans, being involved with philanthropic efforts such as Catch-A-Dream Foundation and Victory Junction, as well as his efforts to "help junior drivers get started in racing."

"What started as a sponsorship discussion between Tony and I 15 years ago has turned into a long and special friendship," Morris said in the statement. "It’s a friendship that has given me the opportunity to get to know one of the most compassionate and kind-hearted individuals I have ever met.

"On behalf of the Bass Pro Family, and as Tony’s friend, we are proud to stand by him as he returns this weekend to the sport he loves so much."