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Auto Racing notes: Tony Stewart dealing with ‘quite a bit of grief’ after fatal Kevin Ward Jr. incident


Tony Stewart is grieving at an undisclosed location in the aftermath of the incident in which 20-year-old driver Kevin Ward Jr. was struck and killed by Stewart’s race car, Stewart’s team said Friday.

“It’s been an emotional week for (Stewart),” Brett Frood, executive vice president of Stewart-Haas Racing, told a news conference at Michigan International Speedway.

Stewart opted not to race in Brooklyn, Michigan, this weekend; he also missed the prior NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen, New York.

Stewart “made the decision he’s not ready to get in the race car and will take it week by week,” Frood said. “It will be up to Tony when he’s ready to get back in the car.

“It was a tragic accident and he’s dealing with quite a bit of grief,” Frood said, adding that Stewart “is surrounded right now by his closest friends and family. His location is of a private nature.”

Frood also said “right now the focus of everyone should be on the (Ward) family that’s grieving.”

NASCAR curbs drivers walking on track

NASCAR implemented a new rule sharply curbing drivers’ ability to walk on a race track in the aftermath of the fatal incident involving Tony Stewart.

Although the incident in which Stewart’s car struck and killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. was not during a NASCAR-sanctioned race, NASCAR took the step in response to the fatal event.

“This is one of those times where we look outside our sport … and we feel like it was time to address this,” Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition, said.

Under the new rule, drivers are to stay in their cars until safety crews direct them to an ambulance or elsewhere unless the drivers are in an emergency situation, such as a fire or smoke inside their cars. The rule says that “at no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach any portion of the racing surface or apron” or approach another moving vehicle.

If a driver breaks the rule, the penalty would be on a case-by-case basis, Pemberton said. “It’s a behavioral penalty,” he said. “We’ll acknowledge it when it happens.”

Gordon sets qualifying mark at Michigan

Jeff Gordon broke the Michigan International Speedway, taking the pole for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race with a speed of 206.558 mph.

Speeds at MIS in Brooklyn, Michigan, have been climbing ever since the 2-mile oval was repaved before the 2012 season. Kevin Harvick set the qualifying record in June at 204.557, but drivers breezed past that mark Friday, and Gordon emerged with his second straight pole.

Joey Logano qualified second, followed by Carl Edwards, Brian Vickers and Brad Keselowski.