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Joe Gibbs: Tony Stewart 'big for our sport'

August 19, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR.com

Joe Gibbs: Tony Stewart 'big for our sport'
Owner won two titles with 'Smoke'

RELATED: Complete coverage of Tony Stewart incident

Joe Gibbs, who won 33 races and two championships with Tony Stewart from 1999-2008, said Tuesday from his team's headquarters in Huntersville, North Carolina, that the time hasn't yet been right for him to reach out to the racer.

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''I didn't feel like it was the right time (to call him),'' Gibbs said, according to the Associated Press. ''We all love Tony. I love what he did for us here. We all know he's a racer's racer, and he's big for our sport.''

Stewart has missed the past two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races since an August 9 sprint car tragedy in which fellow driver Kevin Ward Jr. died. Several drivers at Michigan last week said they had reached out to Stewart to offer support, and had not yet heard back.

All those drivers also reiterated that racing sprint cars was a passion for Stewart, something Gibbs picked up early in their relationship.

''I had to spend 30 minutes listening to him how he won a dirt late model race," Gibbs said. "He was so excited. I came to the conclusion that was him -- for him to be happy and doing the things that he wanted to do, he was going to be racing.

''Tony's got great courage. He's smart. He loves this sport. He's totally focused on it. He doesn't have distractions. He's very important to our sport. This is a horrible thing to have happen for the Ward family, for him.''

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