Tony Stewart expresses sorrow

Despite a rule stating that a driver must attempt to either qualify or race the car in every points-paying event to be eligible for the Chase, Helton said Stewart was granted a waiver based on "a very unique set of circumstances to Tony and our sport."

"As a league and our responsibility to try to make decisions that are correct and right, sometimes we evaluate circumstances that are given us, and then make those decisions as correctly as we can," Helton said. "After evaluating the circumstances around this occurrence, we've come to the conclusion that Tony would be eligible to participate, if he were to earn a spot in it."

"For me, I don't really care about the sport," Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick told ESPN on Friday. "At this particular point, I'm in the more 'Care about Tony Stewart' phase and helping my friend get through a very tragic situation."

Added SHR teammate Danica Patrick: "I'm sure he hasn't even worked through it yet, but one step is to get back to something that feels normal again. I'm sure it's been a very difficult time -- and he said it's been the most difficult thing he's ever gone through. As a team, we're here for him, and we're glad to have him back."

The Oral-B USA 500 is Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report

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