Stewart will hold a noon Central Time press conference at Atlanta Motor Speedway. NASCAR President Mike Helton will speak with reporters an hour later. I don’t know if Stewart will take questions or just read a prepared statement-possibly he will do both. I suspect at least one attorney will sit with him-there is no doubt mainstream media will be on hand and there will be no easy questions from reporters. While I am glad to see Stewart racing again, he does need to answer these questions for his fans and for his sponsors.
The hour long press conference will likely take more emotional endurance than Stewart’s recovery from a broken leg last year. Stewart is known for off-hand sarcastic remarks to the media and that simply won’t be acceptable today, no matter unfair questions may seem to him.
While the Ward family wants to hear Stewart’s explanation of how the tragedy unfolded, I doubt he can offer any remarks that will help with their healing. I cannot begin to comprehend their suffering, and losing a loved one under any circumstances is tough to deal with, but to have it surrounded by a media circus is more than any family should have to endure.
I don’t know what Helton will have to say. Perhaps he will announce a NASCAR waiver allowing Stewart to remain eligible to participate in The Chase if he wins at Atlanta on Sunday or Richmond next Saturday night. Racing is a dangerous sport, but NASCAR is a business, and team sponsors have millions of dollars invested in the business. The Chase offers exposure for sponsors that 39 other race teams will not get over the final ten races of the season.
Though getting in a race car and running 200 miles per hour is what he does, I don’t think it will be an easy task for Stewart when he goes through practice and qualifying today. I don’t know how the tragedy cannot be in the back of his mind every time he races. I feel it would be a Herculean task for the 14 team to win a race and qualify for The Chase. Coming off his 2013 season ending injury, Stewart has not won a race this season. The added weight of the tragedy seems like too much to overcome, not just for Stewart but for crew members as well. It will take time for the old Stewart to surface again, and maybe he never will, though he will be openly accepted in the garage area-racers deal with race tragedies by racing.
There has been talk of Stewart’s race car carrying some kind of decal in memory of Kevin Ward Jr. If the Ward family is OK with that, I think it would be appropriate.
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