The last two weeks of racing on the track have been some of the best seen all season long. There has been on-track drama, strange occurrences, intense wrecks, and very emotional victories.
Yet despite all that, the headline continues to focus on a driver that was not behind the wheel, but instead is still grieving over an incident not occurring at a NASCAR venue. The pain is still there for Tony Stewart, and more importantly is still felt for the family of Kevin Ward Jr. It is nearly two weeks since the young man lost his life, but that sense of loss and the grieving will never go away.
Questions remain as to what happened, and why, but for Stewart even more questions keep coming, and no answers yet. Even with questions of what happened in the accident, and his emotional state when it happened to this moment, the one that keeps coming up is "When, or will, we see you back at the track driving?"
That question in itself is complicated, not just in the sense of the question itself, but the many possible answers that could come of it. Only Stewart can answer of whether he will return to the track, and if so when that will be, but let's look at what possibilities arise for Stewart.
OPTION A: Stewart could return to the track as early as this weekend at Bristol. But, that comes with one very hefty risk, and one expectedly large crowd of reporters clamoring for a chance to ask a question. Even nearly two weeks since the incident, and after missing the last two Cup events, is Stewart ready to face the media, something that even without this story he is not a fan of doing? There won't be questions about the team, his car, or his place in NASCAR; it will all be about one incident, one lap, and one young man.
If Stewart is ready to face that, the other side of the coin for this will be the people that believe he still shouldn't be on the track, whether it be his state of mind, or the fact he's still on the track. It's no secret that many people on social media were calling out Stewart to not race at all, in any form. That is weighing on his mind as well, and everyone is thinking if him even being at a track is the right idea.
That is just one idea, but there is a second.
OPTION B: The second way Stewart could go is he could, like last year, take the remainder of the season off, and simply focus on being an owner and return next season. This could be a viable option that way he is only focused on maintaining a team and a race track while not being on the race track itself. Stewart is a business man, and it's possible the time away from the track and just being an owner will help him begin getting back into the swing of his career.
With his title hopes pretty well gone for the 2014 season, this could be a realistic idea due to the simple fact he does have two teammates already in the Chase, and he already has a Chase title as a driver to his credit.
Sure, his 2011 championship is also one as an owner, but with the additions made to the Stewart-Haas group this season of Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, it gave the organization more veteran leadership and experience, so Stewart's chances of being simply an owner in a championship is not that bad. Of course, there is one last option not discussed.
OPTION C: Stewart could end up deciding, "I can't race anymore, not with this in my helmet everytime I strap in," and decide to be an owner for good, retire from driving or even retire from racing all together and walk away permanently.
This idea is the most drastic of any of them, but those close to Stewart know he's still dealing with everything that comes with such an incident. Sure, the media coverage is one aspect of it, but when the reading of the articles ends, watching the news coverage stops, and seeing the social media outcry comes to a close, it doesn't end. Trying to sleep at night knowing that in the end, he was involved in someone's death, it brings about nightmares, and possible insomnia.
Walking away as a driver for good is a true concept that could actually happen. Is it drastic, yes, but maybe getting away from the sport as a driver is the right idea.
In any case, Stewart is in a way having to do battle with his inner demons, and is trying to win a race where he doesn't even know when the checkered flag waves. Where does he go from here?
Does he return now, or later, or does he walk away.
Unfortunately, the water is very murky in what has become a very difficult situation. Where does he go from here...we may not know for a long while.