Tragedies occur every day and sometimes they are called accidents. This is what happened on Saturday night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park when a young driver, 20 years old, named Kevin Ward Jr., put his life in danger by letting his emotions take over. Ward crossed in front of Tony Stewart’s moving vehicle under caution on the raceway and was hit by Stewart’s right rear tire.
The dictionary gives the meaning of accident as an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury.
In this case it was death, the worst result of an accident.
In the wake of all the negative comments towards Tony Stewart by some of the media, fans, casual fans and those who don’t even care and decided to play CSI surrounding the two drivers involved in Saturday night’s accident is appalling.
This is the reason I decided to write this article is to give you some insight into the world of sprint cars and motorsports.
I interviewed Michael David Miller, a retired Indianapolis Motor Speedway employee who now runs Wide World of Racing on Facebook. Michael follows Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the NASCAR circuit and he grew up around sprint cars. I never met Michael David Miller, but I know he knows sprint cars since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. I wanted to know his thoughts on the accident.
“Joe I can tell you this: Tony is not a killer like everyone one is putting him to be. I know him personally. He may be aggressive on the track but he is a gentle men outside the car. He has help a lot of people from adoption of dogs and helping a troubled driver, and he even helped Dale Jr. This is why I’m sick of all the accusations of Tony.
At first, I didn’t believe it . I was on my group Wide World of Racing doing updates on the Knoxville race when the story came out and I was waiting on the facts before posting on Nuts and Bolts (Facebook site) and I started getting more stuff in on the accident . I didn’t get to bed till 4:30 Sunday morning and then all heck broke loose. I can tell you this, Joe, this is making NASCAR look very bad and this was not a NASCAR race. If it weren’t for Tony Stewart, this wouldn’t have blown up. And after I seen that video over and over again, Ward Jr. had a dark suit and it looked like the lighting was bad and I know for a fact you don’t get out of or leave your car. He almost got hit before Tony, and can I ask you this, Joe? Have you ever seen out of a sprint Car? Or have you seen a sprint car and can you see out of them well with poor lighting, dark suit and conditions of the track with mud and dirt?”
I asked a few drivers over the years, “What is like when your involved in an accident?” They all responded, “You’re momentarily taken off your rhythm and you’re trying to gather your rhythm back, trying to control your adrenaline, making sure your safety belts are tight and calming yourself”.
Does this bring back a memory maybe when some of us have been involved in an automobile accident? The last thing on your mind at the moment is dealing with the other party you were in an accident with. You’re trying to gather yourself and calm yourself down.
In the accident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park Saturday night, Tony Stewart had roughly 15 to 25 seconds to gather himself on a small oval, maybe a 1/8 or 1/2 of mile in length, by checking his gauges, pulling his belts tight, etc., and the last thing on his mind would be to purposely go after Ward Jr.
Any driver will tell you; they never thought of using their race car as a weapon to hit a fellow driver out of their race car right after an accident on track. Some have said they would exchange blows, hand to hand fist fight to release their emotions .
The driver in front of Stewart said, “I didn’t see him.” And Stewart was following the proper protocol at 35 – 40 MPH during a yellow flag, following the race car in front of him when Ward Jr. was struck by his right rear tire.
I have seen the video many times over and had myself strapped into a Southwest Tour Stock Car where you’re sitting so low to the ground. There’s no way any driver driving 40 mph has enough reaction time in a sprint car to avoid hitting a person in a black racing suit with dim lighting on a dirt track with dust in the air who crosses your legal driving path when you’re following the car in front of you.
In a sprint car like the one both parties in this case were driving, your visibility isn’t like a normal passenger car. You have a shell of the body that covers up to your eye height from your left side to your right side. The visibility is restricted to the front. Consider the low lighting at the track on Saturday night with dust flying right after the incident on this small track and the driver that was hit had a black suit on. Take a look at a picture from inside a sprint car.
Here is a statement by J.J. Yeley, a veteran sprint car driver and NASCAR driver, to the Sporting News:
“They have a solid rear axle; they don’t turn on a dime,” Yeley said. “You usually turn those cars with the gas. … They don’t just turn as soon as you turn the wheel. It does take the throttle to do that.
“The right side wing panel comes down sometimes below your eye level so you will have a blind spot. … There’s a part there where you wouldn’t see someone if they jumped out and got that close to the car.”
I can’t see how Tony Stewart would jeopardize his racing empire by purposely striking another driver with his race car. Most of us know Stewart is a hot head, but every single driver is a hot head when an altercation happens, just like you are when involved in an auto accident. We don’t think of running someone over for what happened. Some express it in different ways than others.
I’m totally disgusted with the people the news media has on the news who are passing as so called experts who know nothing of what it takes to drive a race, let alone a sprint car. It’s totally appalling by some of the journalisst who don’t do their jobs correctly by gathering all the facts. Instead, they’re interviewing Bozo.
It took me a few days to digest what happened, as I was in shock following the news last Saturday night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. I felt this way because of the accident, and the way the news media portrayed Stewart as a lunatic cold-blooded killer.
Let’s educate ourselves before we start making judgement and put our favorite drivers aside for once and think of putting yourself in Stewart’s shoes. My thoughts and prayers are with the Ward Jr. family and Stewart’s family on this unfortunate accident.