Tags: tony stewart | kevin ward | race | driving

Tony Stewart's First NASCAR Race After Ward Death Cut Short by Blown Tire

Image: Tony Stewart's First NASCAR Race After Ward Death Cut Short by Blown Tire
Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart (14) os shown in NASCAR Sprint Cup auto race at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, in Hampton, Georgia. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

By    |   Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 10:38 AM

Tony Stewart's first NASCAR race back since his car struck and killed sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. last month ended halfway through the Oral-B USA 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday.

It started on Lap 122 of 325 when Kyle Busch forced Stewart into the wall, crushing the right side of his No. 14 vehicle and damaging the suspension, USA Today reported.

"We just got run over big-time," Stewart told his crew on the radio after the crash. "I hit the wall pretty hard there."

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After repairs, Stewart then suffered a blown tire on Lap 170. He left the track without speaking to the media.

Stewart skipped three NASCAR races before entering the Oral-B USA 500 over the weekend. It was his first time back in a racecar since the Aug. 9 accident that killed Ward.

The veteran driver, who is on the verge of making the Chase for the Sprint Cup field, can still qualify for the 16-car group with a win next week at Richmond because of a waiver announced by NASCAR on Friday, according to ABC News.

Stewart did address Ward's death on Friday, saying that he wanted the 20-year-old's family to know that he's thinking and praying for their son.

"This is a sadness and a pain I hope no one has to experience in their life," Stewart said, according to ABC News. "That being said, I know that the pain and the mourning that Kevin Ward's family and his friends are experiencing, is something I can't possibly imagine."

Some, like Andrew Lawrence of Sports Illustrated, wondered why Stewart was even being welcomed back to NASCAR with open arms when there is still such a cloud over the investigation into Stewart's role in Ward's death.

"Grand spectators cheered him vociferously during his pre-race introduction and parade lap," Lawrence wrote. "The commentators on ESPN, which televised the race, didn't so much report on his return as celebrate it, treating the two-minute statement me made on Friday explaining his absence . . . as if it were the Gettysburg Address."

"The empathy bubble around Stewart in Atlanta was so thick, in fact, you could almost forget about the people suffering so much outside of it — Ward's family and friends," he continued.

Ward died during an altercation with Stewart at New York's Canandaigua Motorsports Park last month. The young driver's No. 13 car spun out after contact with Stewart's. Ward then exited his car, appearing to angrily gesture at Stewart, who reportedly hit the gas. The sudden burst of speed fishtailed his sprint car and the rear tire struck Ward, who was thrown into the air and later succumbed to his injuries at a nearby hospital.

The dirt-track race was not NASCAR-sanctioned.

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Tony Stewart's first NASCAR race back since his car struck and killed sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. last month ended halfway through the Oral-B USA 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday.
tony stewart, kevin ward, race, driving
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2014-38-02
Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 10:38 AM
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