Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, whose store chain sponsors Tony Stewart's No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, released the following statement on Saturday regarding Stewart's return to the race track:
"Today our thoughts are with our friend and fishing buddy Tony Stewart as he prepares to return to racing after what has been a difficult time in his life. Our hearts go out to him and to the family and friends of Kevin Ward Jr., who died in the tragic sprint car event accident on Aug. 9.
"I was able to spend time with Tony last week and it made my heart ache to see him so devastated by this accident.
"Like many other race fans, I love Tony's passion and skill on the track and to watch this fierce competitor compete. But the off-track Tony Stewart is the man that I have come to respect. Time and time again, I've witnessed Tony's quiet generosity and compassion as he gives to others. By personally supporting numerous programs like Catch-A-Dream Foundation and Victory Junction, Tony has given many ailing children a chance to experience outdoor sports and have fun opportunities they might not otherwise have.
"His love of racing goes far beyond his work behind the wheel. It is common for Tony to sign autographs for each and every race fan for hours on end. Behind the scenes, Tony continually steps in to help junior drivers get started in racing because he cares about the sport and its fans.
"What started as a sponsorship discussion between Tony and I 15 years ago has turned into a long and special friendship. It's a friendship that has given me the opportunity to get to know one of the most compassionate and kind-hearted individuals I have ever met.
"On behalf of the Bass Pro Family, and as Tony's friend, we are proud to stand by him as he returns this weekend to the sport he loves so much."