NASCAR President Mike Heston addressed the media on Friday before Tony Stewart’s return to the racetrack. He called the move “part of the normal process when a driver has been absent from participating.”
Without the slightest thought to slain driver Kevin Ward, Jr., Heston kicked off the press conference by saying:
“I do want to join everybody else in the garage area in welcoming Tony back. He’s been a great asset to NASCAR. He’s been a great champion, a great participant in our sport, so it’s nice to have him back.”
Heston proceeded to assure reporters that Stewart was in fact ready to be back behind the wheel, saying:
“As typical, our process calls for us to rely on third party experts to assure us that a NASCAR driver or a NASCAR member is ready to return. All those forms of processes were met and we cleared him based on those third party inputs from experts.”
Though Heston did his best to ease any doubts, Stewart’s speedy return to racing has raised more than a few eyebrows. After all, it was just two weeks ago that he ran over his fellow racer, ending his young life. Even if he is in a sufficient mental state to be back behind the wheel, taking a bit more time off would have been the respectable thing to do.
Heston was quick to dodge any further questions as to Stewart’s mental state, even refusing to divulge whether he was evaluated by psychological professionals. Perhaps this was an attempt to minimize his involvement in the situation, or perhaps there are certain aspects of Stewart’s mental health history that Heston prefers not to publicize. After Ward’s death, reports surfaced regarding Stewart’s difficulty controlling his anger, so Heston very well could have been doing his best to quash those rumors.
Heston concluded by saying that Stewart’s return to the racetrack was ultimately part of his ‘healing process’, a controversial sentiment first expressed by Brett Frood, Executive Vice President of Stewart-Hass Racing, at an earlier press conference. Heston remarked:
“I think particularly those of us that follow this sport every weekend know that driver’s healing processes are unique, but they are racecar drivers, and a lot of times getting back in a racecar is something they shoot to do as quickly as they can.”
Do you think that Tony Stewart’s early return to the racetrack has anything to do with the revenue that NASCAR is sure to rake in as a result? Sound off in the comments section!