HAMPTON, Ga. — Tony Stewart took his seat on the podium — unshaven, his eyes glassy — and unfolded a sheet of paper. His voice quivered as he read, pausing to maintain his composure as he described the death of a driver he hit as "one of the toughest tragedies I've ever had to deal with."
This was a far cry from the brash driver known around the track as "Smoke."
Ninety minutes later, he climbed into his No. 14 car and sped toward the high-banked oval at Atlanta Motor Speedway, drawing a cheer from the crowd gathered around his garage. He quickly got up to speed, turning laps of nearly 190 mph, a racer back in his element.
Ready or not, Stewart is back on the track.