NASCAR Sprint Cup driver and team owner Tony Stewart spoke publicly Monday morning for the first time since the August incident that changed his life.
Stewart has been mostly a recluse since a dirt track car he was driving collided with driver Kevin Ward Jr. who got out of his car after a spin out at an upstate New York track.
There were tons of questions as to whether Stewart deliberately hit Ward or if it was just an accident. Ontario County, New York prosecutors investigated what happened and presented their evidence to a Grand Jury and that Jury came back just last week and said they could not move forward with charges.
A subdued Stewart sat alone at a podium and took questions from a large group of assembled media types:
--Stewart: "I know what happened and I know it was an accident"
--Stewart said he would like to talk to the Ward family, but does not think he needs to because he has closure in the matter. Though he added he would make himself available at any time if the family wants to talk.
--He described the awkward feeling of not doing anything other than going from the track to his track motorhome to his office and his home and nothing else. And that he ran the smaller tracks for fun, it helped keep him energized and he misses that.
--He's not done any fan appearances or corporate appearances since the incident, though he does feel like he will begin to do some in the near future.
--He also talked at length about realizing there is more to life than just racing and that he needs to round things out and do more of things he's put on hold because of his devotion to racing.
--Stewart said he avoided reading reports of what happened for a long time but has eventually started reading. He talked about the wrongness of "picking sides" at what happened. He said it's about an accident that cost a man his life adding "picking sides" takes away from Ward and himself.
--"There's been nothing normal about my life the past 7-weeks". Stewart describing what he's been doing and his interaction with his race team and others.
--Stewart was asked his thoughts on toxicology reports stating Ward was "under the influence"--"It didn't matter to me a young driver lost his life and that's all that mattered".
No huge revelations in the press conference and we did not expect any. A somber Stewart related what he's been going through and it's VERY clear this has made a huge impact on his life.
While he says what happened has not impacted the back half of his race season, the fact is it had to have some impact.
It's very clear, at least to us, Stewart has been struggling with this. He's also having to deal with Ward's family calling for more action and insisting that what happened was intentional.
Coming out and addressing the issue at hand at one time was perhaps the best thing he and his team could have done. We know he's been avoiding having to talk about it, and doing it with everyone in the building limits him having to be chased and asked about it in perpetuity.
It was very interesting to see...and hear.