NASCAR Insiders Rusty Wallace and Darrell Waltrip have informed the Associated Press that three-time Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart will hold a press conference in the coming days, and is expected to announce his retirement from all auto racing activities, as well as announcing the sale of his half of his ownership of Stewart-Haas Racing. The announcement comes after Stewart tragically struck and killed fellow sprint car driver Kevin Ward, Jr.
“This was a tragic accident, one he just can’t get over. I talked with Tony yesterday and he made it clear, he is done with racing. I tried to suggest to him to take time off and think it over for a few months, he told me he has made up his mind and will announce soon. I hope he changes his mind, but it sure sounded like he meant it,” said former NASCAR champion and Hall of Fame member Rusty Wallace.
According to Waltrip, he talked to Stewart for hours the night after the accident and again two days ago, and he says Stewart has been grieving more and more after the initiative shock.
“The man hasn’t slept for days, this has rocked his world harder than anything he has ever had to deal with. He told me he could never effectively get back in a race car and drive. He can barely bring himself to drive his Ford Taurus to the supermarket and back without cringing. I expect an announcement in the next few days, he is just working on what he is going to say to the fans and most importantly the father of the victim, Kevin Ward, Sr.,” Waltrip told NASCAR reporter Nicole Briscoe via telephone interview last night.
Ward, 20, had climbed out of his Sprint car during a dirt race in Canadaigua, N.Y., and he walked toward Stewart’s car during a caution, and while gesturing to him was struck and killed by the car Stewart was driving. Ward was pronounced dead on his way to the hospital.
Several race fans who have watched the horrific video believe that Stewart’s aggressive racing nature caused the death of Ward, including Ward’s father.
“Tony Stewart was the best damn driver by far on the track that night. Why he had to go up as high as he did and hog my son, there’s no reason for it,” Ward Sr. told the Syracuse Post-Standard. “Apparently, he was the only driver on the track who didn’t see [my son.] The one person that knows what happened that night could possibly be facing 10 years in prison. Is he going to say what he’s done?”
Speaking to the Associated Press, Corey Rayburn Yung, a law professor, said that under New York State law, Stewart could very possibly be charged with manslaughter, even if there was no intent to strike Ward.
“The question over whether someone was reckless is a factual one, and one a prosecutor might let a jury decide,” Yung said. “So far, from what I’ve read, Stewart has cooperated with police. That does not mean that once this is all said and done, that they won’t find him at fault one way or the other.”
On whether Stewart will retire from racing, all signs point to yes given the sources. “There will for sure be a press conference in which Tony speaks for himself, I think he sees no other way around this,” said Waltrip. “It will indeed be a sad day for NASCAR.”
Stewart-Haas Racing has not commented on the rumor, and a representative for the team could neither confirm nor deny Stewart’s intentions.