When he broke his leg racing his sprint car a year ago, an injury that sidelined him for six months, he was almost defiant in his desire to never give up his hobby. But after the death of Kevin Ward Jr., who was killed when Stewart's car struck him as Ward walked on an upstate New York dirt track on Aug. 9, Stewart may never get back in a sprint car.
"I would say it's going to be a long time before you ever see me in a sprint car again, if ever. I don't have any desire at this moment to get back in a car," Stewart told The Associated Press in his first interview since a grand jury decided he would not be charged in Ward's death.
"If I had the option to go right now to a race, I wouldn't. I don't even know when I'll go to a sprint car race again to watch. I can promise you it's going to be a long time before you ever see me back in one."
"It's just been a really tough six weeks. I went to go have fun for a night, and that's not what ended up happening."
"I would hope they understand — maybe they do, maybe they don't, maybe they never will — that I do care," he said. "I've tried to be respectful of their process of grieving and not push myself on them. I'm sure they have things that they want to know (about) what happened and I think it's important for them at some point to hear it from my point."
Stewart believes his past — previous eruptions have included him throwing a helmet at another car, shouting and shoving matches, and sharply worded dressing downs — has played heavily into how the public has viewed Ward's death. But he doesn't believe he has a problem with anger, and did not have a problem with Ward that evening.
"Anger had nothing to do with what happened that night," Stewart said. "I wasn't angry with anything or anybody."