Tony Stewart and NASCAR win at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Tony Stewart is introduced at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday night. (Getty Images)

Tony Stewart is introduced at Atlanta Motor Speedway Sunday night. (Getty Images)

By the time Kasey Kahne was celebrating his first win of the season Sunday night, Tony Stewart had already left Atlanta Motor Speedway. The three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion saw his hopes for a race win end on lap 172 when his already damaged Chevy lost a tire and smacked the wall.  The damage was too much and Stewart’s team was forced to retire the car and he was scored in 41st spot.

That didn’t mean that Stewart wasn’t a winner though.  Three days earlier, a solemn and emotional Stewart returned to a track after a three-race absence.  Stewart was involved in a dirt track accident on August 9th that resulted in the death of 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr.  A firestorm of controversy both inside NASCAR and in the mainstream media surrounded Stewart and he chose to retreat from the spotlight.  He sat out the last three races announcing Thursday he would return to competition at Atlanta. Friday Stewart stepped back into the spotlight as he met with the media for the first time. Stewart didn’t take questions, he simply read an emotional statement he prepared himself.

“This has been one of the toughest tragedies I’ve ever had to deal with both professionally and personally,” a subdued Stewart said.  “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.” MORE>>>

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