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In quotes: Drivers comment on Tony Stewart

August 29, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR.com

Reaction from the track in light of driver's return

RELATED: Full coverage of Tony Stewart incident | Harvick: 'I'm just happy to have my friend back'

The NASCAR community welcomed Tony Stewart back to the Sprint Cup Series garage Friday in preparation for his first on-track competition in three weeks.

Stewart, a three-time champion of NASCAR's top series, sat out the past three races as he mourned the death of 20-year-old driver Kevin Ward Jr., who was struck by Stewart's sprint car during an Aug. 9 sprint-car event in Canandaigua, New York.

A sampling of reactions from drivers and others in the NASCAR community:

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"We all feel for him going through what he's going through to work through this tragic accident, but you know what, he'll get there and we'll be here to help."

-- Danica Patrick, teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing

"We all can't imagine what he has to go through and still goes through, but I'm sure for him, it's going to be good therapy to get back in the race car. I mean, when you're sitting in that seat and you're going around a race track, that's all you're thinking about. You have to have all your focus on that. We all support him and obviously love having him back."

-- Denny Hamlin, former teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing

"I think it's very important that … our core media obviously understands who Tony Stewart is and understand the emotions and different things that come with our sport … and as I've watched and been very frustrated through a lot of this situation, you get outside of our core media and the perception is tough to see and listen to. For me, it's very important for those people to understand that our sport is just like other sports. There's a lot of emotion involved in what we do and you see those highlight reels of people throwing stuff and, in this particular case, Tony throwing stuff or getting mad and saying things and getting into the heat of the moment. You can make that highlight reel for all of us, or most of us, with that emotion attached to it. It's tough to see and hear the things that are being tossed that way and toward him and you just want to make sure that when it's reported on, it's reported upon fairly and correctly."

-- Kevin Harvick, teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing

"The only healing I’ve ever known is getting back in that race car -- for all us racers."

-- Clint Bowyer, on ESPN

"It's good to have Tony back in the car. It was a very tragic situation and I think it affected a lot of people. It was a tough situation and I'm certainly glad he's back at the race track, I'm sure it shifts his focus and makes it feel like he has something important."

-- Greg Biffle

"On the track if Tony Stewart's out there, you're going to have to deal with him to win that race or get that position, and he's just an awesome race car driver. You know, I probably haven't spent as much time with him as a lot of other drivers have away from the track, getting to know that sarcastic side to him or that joking side to him, but the time I have spent with him, the guy's just a good, fun-loving guy to hang out with. I think we're all happy to have him back; just hate the fact what the circumstances were as to why he wasn't here."
 
-- Jeff Gordon

"We knew he'd be back. I felt like in my heart he'd be back. The timetable for that was solely on him. We know obviously the legal proceedings have been taking place, and it looks like everything there is allowing him to come and be at the track, be cleared by NASCAR's review process and he feels emotionally ready. And then to see what he was just doing on the race track in practice, his speeds show he's emotionally ready to be back in the car. I can't imagine what he's been through, and I thought that his statements today were well thought out and certainly directed in the right direction toward the Ward family. As Tony's friend, I certainly feel sorry for him, and I think he's been through a real difficult time. My real priority is the Ward family. My real concern is there and the tragic loss that took place a few weeks ago."
 
-- Jimmie Johnson

"I've been out several times now and unfortunately Tony has as well. I think the biggest (emotion) is excitement. You're just really excited to get back in that race car. Appreciation is another emotion you really feel. Just the face that you're able to get back in the car and you have the chance to get back in again. At the end of the day at this level, there's a lot of parts of this job that it does become a job; it's work. But at the end of the day we do this because we love it. And we love being in that race car and we love being fast and I'm just, honestly, so happy to see Tony back in the car. I just have so much respect for that guy and we've missed him since he's been away and I can't wait to get out there and race with him. I think it was certainly a rare and tragic situation and I'm glad that NASCAR saw and understood the circumstances."

-- Brian Vickers

"I get a lot of messages on social media, which is probably the largest pulse I have for what's going on. I certainly get a lot of many more positive messages about it from my fans than anything else. I haven't really chimed in that much. I don't think there's — frustratingly — enough facts out there yet to have an informed opinion. Which, I sympathize for everyone out there. I think there should be a lot more facts available, but that's no one in (the media center's) fault. But still, I'm glad to see the fans are happy and it's the most important thing. Tony and other stuff, he's a strong guy. He'll figure it out."

-- Brad Keselowski

"I imagine he's been overwhelmed with the media he's done. I'm sure that he wants to come here and just practice and go on about his business, but when we get an opportunity to talk, we'll have a conversation. I haven't had a chance to see him at all. I figure that he'd been pretty busy today."
 
-- Dale Earnhardt Jr.

"Having him in the garage ... I haven't gotten to see him yet, so it's still kind of new. I'm sure I'll say something to him before too long and say hey. It's a crazy situation and just glad to see him back."
 
-- Austin Dillon

Kurt Busch, another teammate of Tony Stewart's, took to Twitter to express his thoughts on Stewart returning this weekend

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