Updates from Friday, Aug. 29
Bob Pockrass of Sporting News and ESPN's Brant James have Stewart's thoughts ahead of the race:
Stewart said "this is a sadness and a pain i hope no one has to experience in their life." #nascar— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) August 29, 2014
Tony Stewart: "This is something that will definitely affect my life forever." #nascar— brant james (@brantjames) August 29, 2014
Veteran NASCAR star Tony Stewart will return to competition for his first race since he was involved in an accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.
The Associated Press' Jenna Fryer reported the news Thursday:
News: @TonyStewart will return at Atlanta after sitting out last 3 races following death of Kevin Ward Jr.— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) August 28, 2014
ESPN's Brant James added:
. #nascar exec VP O'Donnell:" “Tony Stewart has received all necessary clearances required to return to all racing activities ..."— brant james (@brantjames) August 28, 2014
NASCAR on NBC had an official statement from Stewart-Haas Racing:
Fox Sports' Tom Jensen reports Stewart is set to meet with the media on Thursday:
Stewart has not spoken publicly since the accident, but he and SHR executive vice president Brett Frood are expected to meet with the media at 1 p.m. ET Friday at the Atlanta track.
Stewart will be behind the wheel for the Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday. Fryer notes in her subsequent report that Stewart hasn’t been in action since the August 9 dirt-track race, when Ward ran out onto the track upset over his car spinning out. Ward approached Stewart’s car visibly displeased, and then was fatally struck.
Fox Sports: NASCAR had a more detailed breakdown of Stewart's absence from the track:
NASCAR has implemented a new rule in the aftermath of Ward’s tragic passing, requiring drivers not to exit their cars while stopped on the track unless they face fire in the cockpit or other imminent danger. ESPN.com news services documented what NASCAR vice president Robin Pemberton had to say about it in his announcement:
Throughout the history of our sport, NASCAR has reviewed and analyzed situations and occurrences that take place not just in NASCAR racing but also throughout all motorsports and other sports. When we believe we can do something to make our sport safer and better for the competitors and others involved in the competition environment, we react quickly. Safety always has been priority No. 1 at NASCAR.
There is still a chance for Stewart to get into the Chase for the Sprint Cup with a win in the coming races, but it has been a tough 2014 season. Stewart has just two top-five finishes on the Sprint Cup circuit and sits 26th in the driver standings.
Jeff Gluck of USA Today analyzed Stewart's results:
Tony Stewart has missed three races and is still 26th in the point standings. Ahead of nine drivers who have made every start.— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) August 24, 2014
As USA Today points out, Stewart would need a trip to victory lane in one of the next two races and a waiver from NASCAR to participate in the Chase. However, Stewart is in jeopardy of not being on the Chase grid for the second straight year.
It will likely take a great deal of determination for the three-time NASCAR champion to recover in time and compete at his highest level. Stewart has long been a polarizing figure in stock-car racing for his big personality, and his return will be a significant storyline for the remainder of the season and beyond.