Tony Stewart makes first public comment on race tragedy

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Shortly after the start of Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International, Tony Stewart broke his silence and made his first public comment about Saturday’s tragic accident that claimed the life of young racer Kevin Ward Jr. at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Speedway.

Stewart’s brief comments came via a statement released by his team, Stewart-Haas Racing:

“There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.

“It’s a very emotional time for all involved, and it is the reason I’ve decided not to participate in today’s race at Watkins Glen.

“My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this tragedy.”

Although unlikely at this point, if Stewart releases any subsequent comments, we’ll bring them to you here at MotorSportsTalk.

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Watch: Top 5 heartbreaks in Indy 500 history (video)

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As we near the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500, NBC Sports will be counting down some of the top moments in the race’s illustrious history, right up until May 26.

Today’s countdown features the top five heartbreaks, from J.R. Hildebrand crashing on the final turn in 2011 to hand the win to Dan Wheldon, to Robby Gordon running out of fuel in 1999 and leading to Kenny Brack’s victory.

For more Indy 500 coverage, check out NBC Sports Gold for exclusive coverage, and don’t miss the race on NBC on May 26.