For the first time since a grand jury declared he would not face criminal charges stemming from a fatal Aug. 9 sprint car accident in New York state, Tony Stewart has spoken about how the tragedy has impacted him.
In an interview with Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press, the three-time Sprint Cup champion also declared his innocence.
“I know 100 percent in my heart and in my mind that I did not do anything wrong,” he said to Fryer on Thursday. “This was 100 percent an accident.”
Fryer reports that on the advice of legal counsel, Stewart would not describe what occurred on Aug. 9 at Canandaigua Motorsports Park from his perspective.
However, he did talk about how his grief over the accident has consumed him.
“You are part of something so tragic and so unthinkable, it’s hard to face anybody,” said Stewart, who returned to the Cup circuit in late August after a three-race absence following the crash. “It was hard to wrap my arms around this, and it still is.
“I haven’t been a part of society for more than six weeks. You are scared to be around anybody, you are embarrassed to be around anybody because of what happened.”
The saga may not be over, either. Stewart won’t face criminal charges, but the family of Kevin Ward Jr. – the young competitor that was struck and killed by Stewart’s car in the accident – issued a statement saying that “the matter [is] not at rest,” perhaps a precursor to a civil suit against him.
In regards to the Ward family, Stewart is saddened that the loss of a young racer has been pushed to the background in this saga and said that he doesn’t blame the family for anything they say.
Time will tell if the family decides to pursue a civil suit. But in Stewart’s mind, he already knows that he’ll never be able to fully get rid of his memories of that horrible night.
“There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that I haven’t thought about it,” he said. “And it will be like that all your life. You are never going to forget about it. You are never going to not see it happen all over again.
“It’s going to be a part of me forever.”