Yesterday, Tony Stewart made it official that he was returning to the track this weekend. Then, earlier today, Smoke made his first public appearance since the tragic accident with Kevin Ward, reading a statement at a brief press conference. Tony's short comments will probably be dissected and digested for days, but again, like after the incident itself, I have more questions than analysis:
1. How will Tony race? Tony is in a unique situation in that he co-owns his team. As a result, there might not be the "Buck Stops Here" boss to decide if he is ready to race, other than Stewart himself. So how will Tony perform on the track? Obviously, even BEFORE the accident, it had been a disappointing year for Tony. Will he be able to truly contend for strong finishes? Will he simply be going through the motions? I really hope that we get the real deal out on the track.
2. How will Tony react to increased scrutiny from the media? Now, I'm not talking about the usual Nascar media here. What I'm talking about is the general sports and general news media that now is likely to follow him around like crazy. Not even necessarily the traditional media--what if a freelancer for Deadspin or Bleacher Report decides to provoke Tony, hoping that an outburst or a physical altercation will put his name on the map? And further, it's not like Tony was known for being media-friendly to begin with.
3. What is the status of the investigation? Tony has much less to do with this, since it's in the authorities' hands at this point. But will there be any charges filed at all? If not, will he be completely absolved, or will it be painted as a "results were inconclusive" situation? This leads into my next question:
4. What is the status of any possible settlement with the Ward family? Cynically we all look at the situation as costing a certain amount of money to "go away". It would be highly likely (in my opinion) that Stewart would want the negative attention of a time-consuming civil suit filed against him. So is there an agreement already? If not, are the Wards working with him to try and reach a settlement? And if not, how long will this thing drag on?
In much less-important news, a regular "News" and Notes will be featured tomorrow, although there will not be a race recap due to other engagements on my end.