Saturday, August 30, 2014

What Process Did Tony Stewart Go Through?

Helton created more questions than he answered
From the moment NASCAR released a statement on Thursday announcing: "Tony Stewart has received all necessary clearances required to return to all racing activities, and therefore is eligible to compete this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway,” the question has been, what clearances?

We don’t know.

In press briefings on Friday by Stewart, Stewart’s team and NASCAR, we heard plenty of talk about the clearance “process.”  Process?  What process?

Again, we don’t know.  And no one is talking.

As should be expected, Stewart appeared emotional and distressed throughout his brief appearance Friday before the media in Atlanta to read a short statement.  He didn’t take questions, saying, “I need to respect the ongoing investigation process and cannot answer and address the questions at this time." 

Then he added, seemingly offhand, “Emotionally, I’m not sure if I could answer them anyway.”

So, from an emotional standpoint, who says he’s ready to drive?

We don’t know.

NASCAR President Mike Helton and Brett Frood, executive vice president of Stewart-Haas Racing, dodged repeated questions about the process following Stewart’s appearance.

Other than saying the decision to return was “100% Tony’s,” Frood refused to shed any light on the process.

“As you all know, when a driver's out of the car, there is that process (for returning).  I'm not going to get into the medical side of it, but I will say we've been in close contact with them (NASCAR) throughout the process, have gotten from them what he needed to get back in the car right now.”

Helton was even more evasive, being careful that NASCAR didn't take any responsibility. 

“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.

Helton was asked if the process including psychological or psychiatric reports.

“We received the ones that we felt were relevant under the circumstances.”

Asked again if the reports were from physiological professionals and how reporters should categorize them, Helton responded, “The ones that were relevant to these circumstances.”

This isn’t the first time NASCAR’s clearance “process” has been clouded in confusion.  It was the last major sport to adopt a procedure for checking competitors for concussions.  That happened only after Dale Earnhardt Jr. admitted driving with a concussion.  

And earlier this year it was Earnhardt Jr. who openly questioned NASCAR’s lack of information about the process used when Denny Hamlin was not allowed to race in California with what at first was thought to be a sinus infection. 

Although it was later determined a small piece of metal in Hamlin’s eye caused his blurred vision, Earnhardt Jr.’s comments are as relevant now as they were then.

“NASCAR should put out a release and say, ‘This is the timeline of the events and this is why we made this choice and this is the protocol for going forward,’” Earnhardt said at the time.

“That answers everybody’s questions.  Don’t have questions?  I have questions.  We shouldn’t have questions.  We should all feel pretty comfortable with what happened.

“Why NASCAR did the things they did and the timeline, it would be good to know those things because the drivers are all curious and fans are curious.

“We should all know what happened and know why it happened and be done with it and not have to worry about it.”

Junior was right.  We should all know what happened, why it happened  It's the only way to be done with it.


  1. By allowing Tony to be Chase qualified if he "wins" (a surprise "win" wouldn't be unexpected, given Nascar loves drama..ratings and $$$$ you know!, they think.). It is a slap in the face to others who were at the track week in and out. Tony's activities outside of Nascar, should not affect how Nascar handles HIM. But then again, for some reason Tony continually gets a unconditional pass from Nascar. No surprise. Nascar's credibility is no existent and sad. IMO.

  2. To me, this indicates that it was NASCAR's decision, more than anybody's, that he sit out in the first place.

  3. Agreed. NASCAR is taking a big chance that Stewart will not be indited and possibly convicted of a crime in the Ward incident. I think Stewart and NASCAR were hoping the investigators would exonerate him before the Atlanta race, which is coincidentally Stewart's best chance to get a win before the Chase, so that they wouldn't have to take the gamble that he is innocent. I believe he is at least innocent where intent is concerned, but negligence could be another matter. If this thing ends up in criminal court, NASCAR will pay a steep price for bending the rules for one of their favorite drivers. Let's hope it doesn't.

  4. If you haven't ever driven a Sprint car or a Cup car you should shut your mouth. Stewart will not be indicted or convicted of a crime. PERIOD

  5. This coddling of Tony Stewart is sickening. A young man is dead and we portray Tony Stewart as a victim? Sad sad sad. The theory that Kevin Ward JR deserved to die because he walked on the track is sickening. Think about this young mans family. So if a suicidal person(Kevin Ward Jr. was not suicidal)walked across a shooting range the people shooting should try to shoot him? Nascar and every driver who defends poor Tony as sickening. Yes I know I am stupid I haven't driven a Sprint Car. Well if one has a brain you would know that with the tremendous amount of stagger in a Sprint Car the car at caution flag speeds wants to turn to the left. Mr Stewart made no effort to turn, no effort to brake, in fact hit the throttle and was veering up the track toward Kevin Ward Jr. If it where another local driver instead of Stewart they would have already been charged and be sitting in jail. And Tony's press conference - what a sickening display of self pity. A scripted PR driven manuscript read in a insincere manner.