Tony Stewart's burden enormous

From the second he began until the moment he concluded and left, it took two minutes, 27 seconds. Here's the way it really sounded, and I mark the inflections and pauses. But throughout, whatever else, the tone was consistently mournful and terribly subdued.

"This has [pause] been one of the toughest tragedies I've ever had to deal with. [Pause; sigh] Both professionally and personally. And this is something that will definitely affect my life forever.

"This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one ever has to experience in their life.

"With that being said, I know that [long breath] the pain and the mourning that Kevin Ward's family and friends are experiencing, uh, is something that I -- I can't possibly imagine.

"I want Kevin's father, Kevin Sr., and his mother, Pam, and his sisters, Christi, Kayla, Katelyn, to know that every day I'm thinking about them and praying for them.

"The racing community is a large family, as you guys know. And everyone's saddened [voice breaking] with this tragedy. I want to thank all my friends and family for their support through this tough emotional time. And the support from the NASCAR community, our partners, all of our employees has been overwhelming.

"I've taken the last couple of weeks off [pause] out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way. It's given me time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted.

"I miss my team, my teammates, and [breath] and [pause] I miss [voice breaking] being back in the race car. And I think [pause] being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.

"I also understand that[pause] all of you have many questions and want a lot of answers. However, I need to respect the ongoing investigation process and cannot answer and address the questions at this time.

"Emotionally [voice cracking], I'm not sure if -- if I -- could answer 'em anyway.

"I'm here to race this weekend, and I appreciate your respect.

"And there will be a day when I can sit here and answer the questions.

"Thank you."

There was a hint, in the "there will be a day" part that, when the sheriff's department investigation is over, Stewart expects to be able to speak of what, in his recollection, happened in those fateful one or two seconds Aug. 9, when Ward climbed out of his car, clearly irate at Stewart, walked into the middle of the track and was struck by Stewart's car.

But for now, Stewart and Brett Frood, the executive vice president of Stewart-Haas Racing, cited the ongoing investigation in declining to comment on the incident itself.

The investigation will continue "for at least another two weeks," according to a statement issued Friday by Ontario County, New York, sheriff Philip C. Povero.

Povero pointed out that the district attorney's office is being kept apprised of the investigation. Still, there has been no indication any criminal charges are pending.

Maybe in a few weeks, Tony Stewart will be able -- or at least able to try -- to answer all the media questions about what really happened.

Even then, maybe, Stewart can continue to get through this. But clearly, he will never get over it.

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 25186147. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 25186147.
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