Tony Stewart spoke to the media for the first time Friday since his sprint car hit and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during a dirt track race in upstate New York on August 9.
Stewart read a statement that he wrote as part of a 10-minute press conference.
“This has been one of the toughest tragedies I’ve ever had to deal with both professionally and personally, and this is something that will affect my life forever," he said.
“This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one has to experience in their life. With that being said, I know the pain and the mourning that Kevin Ward’s family and friends are experiencing is something I can’t possibly imagine.”
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Stewart's team announced on Thursday that he will make his return to racing this weekend at the Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta. And NASCAR has said that Stewart will be allowed to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship if he wins one of the final two races before the end of the regular season. Stewart, who is winless this year, sat out the last three races while dealing with his grief after the tragic accident.
Each member of Ward's immediate family was also named by Stewart as he said that he thinks of them and prays for them every day.
"I've taken the last couple of weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way," he said.
Stewart declined to answer questions from the media, saying he has to respect the ongoing investigation process and is "not sure if I could answer them anyway."
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Marty Smith of ESPN reports that Ontario County Sheriff Phillip Povero says Stewart's investigation will take at least two more weeks.
- Molly Geary