Tony Stewart won’t be facing criminal charges following his involvement in a fatal sprint car accident last month.
But for at least two of his peers on the Sprint Cup circuit, relief isn’t exactly the emotion they feel so much as continued sympathy for him and for the family of Kevin Ward Jr., the driver struck and killed by Stewart’s car on Aug. 9 at Canandaigua Motorsports Park.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he tried not to pay too much attention to the Stewart saga, but noted that “you get something in the pit of your stomach that is sort of this frightfulness or this fear for Tony and what he is having to deal with.”
“Just having known him for all these years, you can imagine that he is going through something super emotional and overwhelming by a huge measure,” he added. “There is sort of a sickness…for what Tony is going through, but at the same time you never really forget that somebody was killed.
“There is a family with a hole in their heart and they have got to figure out a way to live out the rest of their lives with this always on their mind. It will have a huge effect on both sides for so many years. It’s just super-duper unfortunate.”
Earnhardt’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, Jimmie Johnson, was also asked to share his thoughts on Stewart being cleared of charges.
Like Earnhardt, he too emphasized the sadness of Ward’s death. But he also admitted that the revelation of Ward’s toxicology report saying he had marijuana in his system (enough to impair judgement according to Ontario County (N.Y.) District Attorney Michael Tantillo) was “shocking to see.”
“From a friend perspective and worrying about Tony and understanding what he’s gone through and how tough this has been on him, I’m sure there is some type of relief that it’s kind of done, in that respect,” Johnson said.
“But at the same time, coming back to the Ward family, even in the remarks I read from Tony, I’m sure he feels okay about not having this go any further and there being legal actions.
“A civil suit is still out there and that can happen for any reason; to anybody in this room. But, the other side of it, still first and foremost on Tony’s mind is that it was an accident and his heart is still out for the Ward family.”
Stewart declared his innocence in an interview Thursday with the Associated Press that was released earlier this morning.