Thursday afternoon NASCAR announced that Tony Stewart would be back behind the wheel of his # 14 Bass Pro Chevrolet in this weekend’s Atlanta Sprint Cup race on Sunday night.
Tony has been out of the car the last three races (Watkins Glen, Michigan & Bristol), following the death of Kevin Ward Jr. on a non NASCAR car race in upstate New York on Saturday August 9th the night before the Watkins Glen race.
Regan Smith (Watkins Glen), and Jeff Burton (Michigan & Bristol), filled in for Tony in his absence valiantly but thing is we don’t know if the criminal investigation is over for that accident.
I know that the shelf life for modern news stories is short, this accident from three weeks seems like old news and to some fans it may be good to “move forward” but first we need to make sure the full investigation wrapped up with this incident. Also that any pending criminal charges is past.
Plus what is Tony’s mindset as well? Is he mentally fit to race? Sure it may be good for him to be back in the car and on the track but let’s not forget someone died. Yes Kevin Ward Jr. walked down a track (during a race), and put himself in harm’s way and both men were at fault (Tony for revving his engine as he neared Kevin) but due diligence needs to be done.
NASCAR stated on Thursday that Tony Stewart "has received all necessary clearances required to return to all racing activities", and I know that having Tony racing is good for NASCAR, he's one of the top five active drivers with three championships and is part owner of his race team (Stewart-Haas), whose drivers include Danica Patrick, Kevin Harvick & Kurt Busch.
But I had originally thought to have Tony sit the rest of the season out, he is having a bad year points wise and not in contention for the playoffs (Chase), but that is irrelevant, this can’t be one of those "oh well its been some time" so he can come back. This is more than about racing or sponsors or TV ratings and power, wealth & prestige should not hasten his return to racing.
If this were you or me we’d still be at the mercy of the courts (and possibly still in prison if we could not make bail), and Tony still might be but probably more for a civil case. I really hope this doesn't turn into him throwing money at Kevin Ward's family and then life for Tony seems to return to normal. I'm not asking that "he be put under the jail", just that more time & consideration be given to this incident and respect be given to the investigation.
The thing to remember is that someone died because of this, regardless of fault, we can't just walk away from this saying "that's racing" because its not. A young man is no longer living much less racing and that means until this whole situation is done, neither does Tony.