A few days after being cleared by a New York grand jury in the August 9 dirt track crash that killed driver Kevin Ward Jr., driver Tony Stewart said he has been so overcome with grief he has been unable to leave his house.
Stewart, 43, additionally told the Associated Press' Jenna Fryer that he feels the crash was "100 percent an accident." It's the first major interview Stewart has given in the aftermath of the resolution of the criminal investigation.
There were days when NASCAR star Tony Stewart couldn't get out of bed. It was a chore to take a shower, to leave his room. The television was on, he would stare at it, and have no idea what he was watching.
He didn't care about motor racing. He didn't want to talk to anyone, let alone face his family, friends or other drivers. Stewart's grief over the death of Kevin Ward Jr. was overwhelming, and he couldn't find his way out of the fog.
Stewart spent three weeks in seclusion at his Indiana home after the car he was driving struck and killed Ward at a dirt track in upstate New York on Aug. 9. He describes those weeks as the darkest of his life.
Ward, 20, was struck by Stewart's car after Ward walked onto the track during the race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park.
Video taken at the scene made it appear as though Ward wanted to confront Stewart following an incident where the veteran driver edged out the rookie during an attempted pass, sending his car spinning into a wall.
During the interview with Fryer, he expressed his condolences to Ward's family.
He said he can't imagine how the Ward family is feeling.
"I guess the end result is I don't blame them for anything they say," he said.
Stewart has received both criticism and support in the aftermath of the crash, with some demanding he be charged and others saying it was merely an unfortunate accident.
After the grand jury decision was announced, Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo said a toxicology report revealed Ward was under the influence of marijuana during the crash, enough to impair his judgement.
Still, Ward's family has said the matter is "not at rest," and Stewart may face a civil lawsuit in death. They released this statement after the grand jury decision was released:
''Our son got out of his car during caution when the race was suspended. All the other vehicles were reducing speed and not accelerating except for Stewart, who intentionally tried to intimidate Kevin by accelerating and sliding his car toward him, causing the tragedy,'' the family said Wednesday. ''The focus should be on the actions of Mr. Stewart. This matter is not at rest and we will pursue all remedies in fairness to Kevin.''
Regardless of any legal outcomes, this will never be over for Ward's family — and from the sound of that interview, maybe not for Tony Stewart, either.