As can be imagined in a situation such as Saturday night’s tragedy at Canandaigua Speedway in upstate New York that claimed the life of young race car driver Kevin Ward Jr., Tony Stewart did not choose to speak with the general media Sunday morning at Watkins Glen International.
But Stewart did speak privately to at least one high-profile member of the media – who also happens to be a former driver/champion and a NASCAR Hall of Famer – but more as friend-to-friend than athlete-to-reporter.
That was ESPN analyst Dale Jarrett.
To his credit, Jarrett put his brief meeting with Stewart in context during the network’s pre-race show about an hour before the green flag dropped for the Cheez-It 355 at WGI.
“I did speak to Tony as a friend. My conversation with Tony was just to let him know that he had many friends like myself and an entire community that was thinking about Tony, he’s in our thoughts and prayers, and we all love and support him.
“We all go through challenges in our life. We don’t know sometime why these challenges are put in front of us and face us, but that he had all of us to lean on in a most difficult time.
“I’m fortunate to call Tony Stewart a good friend, and I was honored that he would take a little bit of time to be there, and I could be there with him this morning, just as a friend, wanting to let him know I am here if there is anything I can do.
“It was basically Tony’s decision that he did that (decided not to race in Sunday’s event at The Glen). After you think about things, that you realize that this is the right thing.
“That was the last thing I told Tony – other than that I loved him like a brother – that he made the right decision. He didn’t need my reassurance, he knew that he made the right decision, and it was the only decision. And Tony Stewart is that type of person and showed that once again.”
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