I’ll start this off with the usual disclaimer – I am, and have been for a long time, a Tony Stewart fan, and none of that changed this weekend.
Another thing that didn’t, and won’t, change from this past weekend, is the Tony Stewart legacy:
- 3-Time Sprint Cup Champion (2002, 2005, 2011)
- Brickyard winner, All-Star winner, Shootout winner, Gatorade Duel winner
- Rookie of the Year in 1999
What happened on Saturday night is a great tragedy. A young racer lost his life, and nothing will bring that back. Nothing. So let’s take a look at this for a second from an overall perspective.
When one plays any sport they take with it the risks that come with the sport (Baseball: Getting hit by a ball…Hockey: Getting sliced by a skate…Racing: Crashing (See: Dale Earnhardt)…et.al.). Yes, over time some of those risk become more severe, and people sue because of it (See: Long-Term Effects on NFLers).
In racing, at all levels (from Midget to Sprint to Stock), stepping into the car you take with you the risk of a car accident. Thankfully over time they have made the cars so safe, as was witnessed in yesterdays race at Watkins Glen <I’m talking about cars getting cut in half (see video here)>, that these drivers can walk away from intense crashes with no harm done to them.
But when you get in an accident, especially in the NASCAR levels, you get out of your car, and usually by that time the safety crews have arrived, if not, you wait for them to get there. The only time you walk away from your car before then is if the car is on fire.
But Saturday night, Kevin Ward Jr. got spun into the corner, and came out of his car, looking for revenge and a chance to scream obscenities at the driver who tied him up, Tony Stewart.
Now Tony is known for his hot temperament, and has gotten into fights on the track before…but he always does it face-to-face (or as close to it as he can get).
But after racing vehicles of all shapes and sizes for almost 40 years, why would he start now to use his vehicle as a weapon?
When I originally saw the rumors on Saturday night, it sounded to me like he hadn’t wanted to deal with a 20-year old coming up and challenging him, so instead he gunned it, fishtailing (as often happens in Sprint Cars) and clipping Ward.
And then I saw the video Sunday morning (link below), in which I saw a driver get out of his car, and walk into moving vehicles, trying to find the one he was looking for. You can even see cars swerve around Ward, such as #45, before Tony gets there, and catches him in his REAR tire (which if he had purposely been aiming for him, you’d need to assume he’d have hit him square on), and he gets dragged ~25 ft. before getting spit out by the tire, motionless.
While this is a very tragic and horrific situation, what is one supposed to think when he sees someone walk out into moving traffic and get hit by a vehicle?
If you saw this while driving down I80 to work, would you blame the driver or the wanderer?
The police have so far said that “right now (it’s) being investigated as an on-track crash and (they) don’t want to infer that there are criminal charges pending.” Things may change as they review more evidence.
I don’t think this is a case of “Vehicular Manslaughter” any more then I think it is a “Death By Suicide”.