Tony Stewart, taking questions from reporters for the first time in the seven weeks since the tragic death of Kevin Ward Jr., said Monday that he will continue his racing career.
However, the three-time NASCAR Cup champion said he doesn’t see himself getting behind the wheel of a sprint car again.
“I’ve had drivers that I’ve raced with every week and drivers that I haven’t raced with for months that have said ‘Don’t let this keep you from doing what you love,’” Stewart said during the news conference. “This is what I’ve done all my life. This is what I’ve done for 36 years. I wouldn’t change anything about it.
“I love what I do. I love driving race cars. I think it might change, right now, as far as how much of it and what I do. There was never a thought in my head about stopping. That would take the life out of me.”
Ward was killed Aug. 9 when a sprint car driven by Stewart struck and killed him during a dirt-track race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York. The 20-year-old Ward had exited his car after a crash and walked toward Stewart’s moving car on the track, waving his arms in an apparent attempt to confront the NASCAR veteran.
A grand jury last week decided Stewart would not be charged in Ward’s death. Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo also said Ward was under the influence of marijuana the night of the accident “enough to impair judgment.”
Stewart said there was nothing malicious about his driving.
“I know what happened and I know it was an accident,” he said.
Stewart. 43. is a 16-year NASCAR veteran who also is the co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing. He has won 48 career races and has 296 career top-10 finishes. He has earned $116.5 million over his 547 career Sprint Cup races.
Stewart sat out three Sprint Cup races before returning to the series at Atlanta on Aug. 31.
Stewart told The Associated Press on Thursday that he was unsure if he would ever race sprint cars again and repeated that Monday.
“I race those cars to have a good time,” said Stewart, who insisted that he “just wanted to have some fun that night.”
Stewart acknowledged that the crash at Canandaiuga Motor Park will stay with him forever.
“It’ll never get back to normal, but it will get better,” he said.