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Stewart returns to NASCAR after driver death amidst celebrations - and some unease

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Motorsports - The 'grim irony' of NASCAR death as probe continues

Everyone in NASCAR was delighted to welcome Tony Stewart back to the track last weekend after a three-week absence.

As spectators cheered and commentators enthused, his colleagues and rivals expressed their happiness, with Dale Earnhardt Jr saying, “I’m glad he’s back!”

Stewart’s break came after he hit and killed 20-year-old pro-am racer Kevin Ward Jr at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York last month.

Ward had climbed from his car and was trying to confront Stewart following an incident during the race.

Police stressed from the start that their investigation was not a criminal one, but even so it seems to be dragging a little, with the latest update from the sheriff’s office suggesting that it would be another fortnight before there were any developments.

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Flowers lay next to the front entrance of the Canandaigua Motorsports Park (Getty)

That might be taking a long time, but some observers, including Sports Illustrated’s Andrew Lawrence, wonder whether Ward’s death has been glossed over far too quickly in the effort to reintegrate a big name, and co-owner of one of their teams.

Indeed, NASCAR themselves didn’t prevent Stewart from competing – that was a decision he made himself.

“I've taken the last couple of weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way,” explained Stewart before the weekend’s race.

NASCAR have already gone on record as saying that Ward’s death falls outside their jurisdiction; “Our scope of responsibility and authority is limited to the NASCAR community,” argued president Mike Helton, overlooking the fact that it was a NASCAR driver killing another during a NASCAR event.

Stewart made a swift exit from his return race, however; and did not speak to the media afterwards.

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Tony Stewart

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