Thursday October 8th, 2015 2:10PM

Gordon says Stewart could run strong in Atlanta

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) - Tony Stewart was cheered in practice Saturday.<br /> <br /> Jeff Gordon and other drivers wouldn't be surprised if Stewart hears bigger cheers Sunday night.<br /> <br /> Kevin Harvick will be on the pole, but Stewart, who will start 12th, will be in the spotlight in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.<br /> <br /> Stewart is competing for the first time since the sprint car he was driving struck and killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. in an Aug. 9 race at a dirt track in upstate New York.<br /> <br /> Gordon was impressed when Stewart ran close to 190 mph in practice on Friday. Stewart was a bit slower in qualifying at 187.907 and again in Saturday, when he posted the 18th-fastest time at 184.806.<br /> <br /> Still, Gordon said Friday that Stewart "may make quite a return."<br /> <br /> Gordon and other drivers said the return to racing will provide therapy for Stewart, who was visibly emotional, with his voice breaking, as he read a prepared statement on Friday.<br /> <br /> "I do think that the best thing for him is to be in that race car," Gordon said.<br /> <br /> Said Harvick, Stewart's teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing: "Being in that car cures a lot of problems for a short time."<br /> <br /> Harvick warmed up for the Sprint Cup race by winning Saturday night's Nationwide Series event, leading the final 159 laps.<br /> <br /> In his prepared statement, Stewart said he skipped the last three races "out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way."<br /> <br /> "It's given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted," Stewart said. "I missed my team, my teammates and missed being back in the race car. I think that being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time."<br /> <br /> Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Saturday he tried to reach out to Stewart but was unsuccessful.<br /> <br /> "Tony has sort of been underground and not really having communication with anyone," Earnhardt said.<br /> <br /> "I'm glad he's back. It was fun seeing him out there in the car in practice. I just can't imagine what that situation must be like. ... It's a hard situation for everybody, the whole sport."<br /> <br /> Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, one of Stewart's primary sponsors, released a statement Saturday expressing support for Stewart in his return. Morris said he met with Stewart last week.<br /> <br /> "It made my heart ache to see him so devastated by this incident," said Morris, who described Stewart as "one of the most compassionate and kind-hearted individuals I have ever met."<br /> <br /> Brad Keselowski will start beside Harvick on the front row.<br /> <br /> It is the next-to-last race before the Chase for the Sprint Cup.<br /> <br /> Stewart can make the 16-car Chase field with a win Sunday night or next week at Richmond, thanks to a waiver announced by NASCAR on Friday. NASCAR requires its drivers to compete in every event to make the playoff, but Stewart received the waiver that is normally applied to a driver who misses a race for medical reasons.<br /> <br /> Gordon, the points leader, and other drivers supported the decision to grant Stewart the waiver.<br /> <br /> "I think the whole intent of eligibility for the Chase is just so that somebody doesn't go just take a vacation after winning a few races," Gordon said. "That's the way I look at it. It's not for unforeseen circumstances or medical or anything like that to prevent you from going out and competing in the Chase.<br /> <br /> "They want the teams and the drivers that have earned their way in it and deserve to be in it and I believe if they win a race they should be in it."<br /> <br /> The new Chase format places an emphasis on wins. Drivers who don't have a win must nervously watch the points standings for the final spots in the Chase field.<br /> <br /> The format could force some drivers to adapt an all-or-nothing strategy for the final two races before the Chase.<br /> <br /> "There are two races left and it's going to be a battle," said Brian Vickers, who is 19th in points and seeking his first win of the year. "It's going to be intense these next two races, knowing it's not just about the guys on the cusp of the points. It's anybody who can win."<br /> <br /> Matt Kenseth, who was fifth in qualifying, is in the best position of those still trying to lock up a spot in the Chase. He will be locked in by finishing seventh or better, regardless of who wins the race.<br /> <br /> Gordon is reaching a milestone with his 750th career race. It's an appropriate setting for Gordon, who made his debut in Atlanta in the final race of the 1992 season.<br /> <br /> "It just seems like it was just yesterday it started right here," Gordon said. "I love this track. I love racing here. So it's pretty cool to have 750 happening here."
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
2014 Top 10: Looking back at the top sports stories of the year
It was another year for the record books in 2014, mostly for the right reasons -- state championships, new challenges and new stars taking their turn to shine. But there were also plenty of big stories that reminded us that sports -- like life -- isn
11:55PM ( 9 months ago )
NASCAR K&N Pro Series schedules set for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - NASCAR announced recently the 2015 schedules for its top developmental regional touring series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
2:00PM ( 9 months ago )
Lanierland boys final: Johnson makes history with win over Red Elephants <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Ever the aggressor on the court, Johnson
8:55AM ( 9 months ago )
Pits will be tight as Chili Bowl entry count hits 316
TULSA, OK - The 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals presented by General Tire is on track to be a record smashing event, with the entry count climbing over the 300 mark for the first time to 316 entries confirming 303 drivers for the indoor spectacular happening Tuesday, January 13 through Saturday, January 17 at the Tulsa Expo Center in Tulsa, OK.
9:59AM ( 9 months ago )
Falcons fire Mike Smith after 2nd straight losing season
Mike Smith's status as the winningest coach in Falcons history wasn't enough to save his job. Owner Arthur Blank said he fired Smith on Monday because in his "heart of hearts" he didn't believe Smith could take the Falcons to the Super Bowl.
7:58PM ( 9 months ago )
New promoters in place for 2015 at Senoia Raceway
SENOIA, GA - Lease papers have been signed and a team of new promoters is in place for the upcoming stock car racing season at Senoia Raceway in Senoia, GA.
6:00AM ( 9 months ago )
Professional Sports
Garbo, Jr. to compete in NASCAR K&N East with Whelen sponsorship
CHARLOTTE, NC--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- When Marsh Racing and longtime team sponsor Whelen Engineering Company, Inc. got the opportunity to put together a race team for 2015, they looked closely at the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.
12:00PM ( 9 months ago )
Former NASCAR racer pleads guilty in high-speed chase
12:51PM ( 9 months ago )
Chili Bowl entry list again nearing record 300 mark
TULSA, OK - For the past couple years, the entry list for the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals has flirted with the 300 mark. Once again, the number of teams registering for the indoor Midget event is nearing the three century mark with 285 entries received for the 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals.
11:59AM ( 9 months ago )
Kurt Buschs ex seeks no-contact order at hearing
12:27PM ( 9 months ago )
Sprint to end NASCAR sponsorship after 2016 season
2:54PM ( 9 months ago )
Sprint Unlimited field features Chase drivers for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - Coming off an exciting 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup finale, NASCAR announced Monday all 16 Chase drivers will be eligible to compete in the 2015 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.
12:00PM ( 9 months ago )
Sprint Cup
Surprising Tigers looking to take early lead in 7-AAA
Sid Maxwell admitted he wasn’t sure what he was getting into when he decided to take the Dawson County job back in the spring.
5:02PM ( 2 hours from now )
Falcons downplay White's complaints about lack of passes
Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White skipped practice Wednesday for an undisclosed personal matter, while the team addressed concerns that he's not happy with a diminished role in the offense.
By The Associated Press
8:42AM ( 5 hours ago )
VIDEO: Kevin Harvick, Regan Smith tame the 'Monster Mile'
If there's one thing the NASCAR world should know by now, it's that Kevin Harvick is hard to beat when he's in a must win situation.
8:00AM ( 6 hours ago )
Tennessee dismisses WR Pig Howard ahead of facing UGA
Tennessee wide receiver Alton "Pig" Howard has been dismissed from the team for a violation of unspecified team rules.
By The Associated Press
5:48AM ( 8 hours ago )
Cross country: Johnson boys, North Hall girls claim Hall County titles
Johnson’s boys took first place individually and as a team, while North Hall’s girls did the same on Wednesday at the Hall County Cross County Championships at Chestatee High in Gainesville.
By AccessWDUN Staff
12:12AM ( 13 hours ago )