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Tony Stewart leaves Watkins Glen with last-place finish but sees progress on track

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at the Glen

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at the Glen

Todd Warshaw

Tony Stewart’s turbulent weekend ended with a last-place finish Sunday at Watkins Glen International after a mechanical failure.

The result comes two days after attorneys for the family of Kevin Ward Jr., filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Stewart, blaming him for the death of Ward a year ago in a sprint car crash.

Stewart has not commented on the lawsuit.

Stewart was asked after Sunday’s race about the reception of the fans and said: “Real good all the way around. Yeah, we had a good weekend, as good as it could be. Happy to get to race here today. That is something I have been looking forward to and happy about the couple of weeks we have coming up.”

This was Stewart’s first race at Watkins Glen since 2012. He missed the 2013 race after he was injured in a sprint car crash in Iowa that forced him to miss the rest of that season. He did not race in this event a year ago, coming a day after Stewart struck and killed Ward after Ward exited his car and walked down the track toward Stewart’s car during a sprint car race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park.

Sunday, Stewart started third and ran in the top 10 part of the race until he fell out after 56 of 90 laps with a rear gear issue.

“We changed it out, but we are going to leave the rear end together and get it back to (the shop) and find out exactly what happened,’' he said.

Stewart was still pleased with how his team ran Sunday after the struggles he’s had throughout the year.

“I guess for me it’s big picture,’' he said. “The way our season has been we’ve picked up. Indy we picked up, Pocono we picked up, we picked up here in qualifying at all three places for sure. At the end of the day, the results won’t show it, but I think for us it’s … granted it’s three totally different disciplines and packages and all that, but I feel like we are starting to gain some momentum. Like I said, it won’t show it at the end of the day on the results, but I feel good about our weekend.”

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