Saturday night tragedy struck on a dirt track in New York. If you haven’t seen the video yet, you wont’t find it here. But what happened is three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart and a 20 year-old driver named Kevin Ward were racing side-by-side at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in a Sprint Car race when the two collided. Ward’s vehicle went into the wall and ended his night. Or that’s how we all wish it had gone down.
Infuriated, Ward got out of his car and walked onto the track as the cars drove by on a caution. When Stewart’s car approached, the young racer walked closer and closer shouting and pointing at the seasoned veteran. As Stewart’s car passed, Ward was clipped and sucked under and then flung about 50 yards. Ward later died at the hospital.
No words can describe the impact that has had on so many lives.
A video posted shortly after the incident on the internet includes a man shouting in shock and anger “Tony Stewart just hit that guy!” over and over. Women nearby gasp in disbelief to what they saw. The social media world “blew up” with people claiming Stewart did it on purpose, his temper finally got the best of him, he’s a murderer and so on and so forth. The evidence and motives for what happened, however are inconclusive.
Reports are that Tony gunned the engine as he approached the irate Ward. Why? We don’t know. Do I believe he meant to harm the young man? No. Should he have tried to send a message to the “kid?” Yeah, sure.
Smoke may have revved his engine for a number of reasons. The most likely:
1. To scare the kid. Much like an aggressive driver in traffic that passes a slow poke riding in the passing lane. They gun the engine and speed by shouting obscenities in an attempt to let them know they need to get over into the slow lane.
2. To give the kid a dirt bath. It’s simple, hit the throttle and kick some dirt in the young punk’s face. Show him he can’t challenge a veteran driver and try to make a name for himself.
3. To speed by quickly and avoid the confrontation. This doesn’t sound plausible because it’s Tony Stewart, but maybe.
None of these justify what happened, but are merely potential reasons why Tony would have sped up as he passed the screaming competitor.
Officials say Tony Stewart has been very cooperative in the investigation of the incident. I doubt any fault will be placed on either party. I heard Marty Smith from ESPN say Monday that no one in the racing world is pointing any fingers and they all believe it is an unfortunate chain of events.
What should happen in the wake of this tragedy? I believe NASCAR and all racing organizations will adopt a “no aggression rule” that comes with heavy penalties (large fine or suspension) for a competitor chasing down a driver on the track. Let’s be honest. The young man should not have been out there in a position to get himself hurt like that.
As for Tony… I think he’d be best served by giving up the Sprint Car game altogether. Nothing good apparently can come from it for him. Remember it was in a Sprint Car that he broke his leg last summer, knocking him out of the last NASCAR season and potentially harming his career going forward mentally and physically. I also think it would behoove Tony to take the rest of the year off from NASCAR. I’m pretty sure there is zero chance of that happening, but staying out of the spotlight might be best for him at this point.