(photo courtesy of nydailynews.com)
MUNCIE, Indiana – We’ve avoided publishing this article until after the Ward family made arrangements for the young Kevin Ward. Because of the grieving process, his mother and father have been in shock, but after the funeral, dad’s shock wore off and was replaced by anger when he told reporters, “Apparently, Tony Stewart was the only one driving out there who didn’t see him.”
ICYMI: Famed NASCAR driver Tony Stewart was racing his sprint car at a local dirt track last weekend in New York before Sunday’s NASCAR event, Watkins Glen. After buzzing around the track and pushing Kevin Ward Jr.’s car into the wall drawing a caution flag, the next lap has altered the lives of both, Tony Stewart and the Ward’s family, forever. On Deadspin, we got to see the famed video where Tony’s car ran over the young driver.
Tony Stewart has always been a passionate driver who lets his emotions get the best of him at times. He is fined more than all other personalities in NASCAR. He’s been known to get out of his car and throw his helmet at another driver’s car who he felt wronged him. It’s NASCAR and we get it – fans love it.
You can watch the video for yourself on Deadspin. We must warn you, it is unsettling. It’s a tragic accident.
Eyewitnesses in the first turn have said Tony throttled down before approaching Ward, maybe wanting the back-end of the car to “flip dirt” at the kid for challenging him on the racetrack the way he did, but the large back tire literally sucked Ward underneath it and then spit him back about 20 yards.
Why didn’t Tony slow down and hug the bottom of the track? That split second decision made by Tony will haunt him the rest of his life. It was an accident, but his decision caused the car to move a certain way causing the death of young phenom sprint driver. Should the kid have jumped from his car and gestured at Tony. No, and that was a split second decision as well.
In this case, two people making poor decisions ended the life of another – prematurely.
Initially, the police said no criminal intent was discovered so charges wouldn’t be filed, but that doesn’t mean Tony has escaped being arrested.
According to CBSNEWS:
The NASCAR star could be charged with second-degree manslaughter under New York law if prosecutors believe he “recklessly caused the death of another person,” with negligent homicide another possibility, according to criminal law professor Corey Rayburn Yung of the Kansas University School of Law.
Both NASCAR and local tracks are implementing knee-jerk responses to the accident by telling drivers they must stay in the car during a caution – this rule is unenforceable. You can fine someone after it happens, but there is no way to prevent a driver from exiting his car under a caution. If he’s angry and the adrenaline is flowing, they’ll act on it.
According to Jeff Ward, Sr., the dead drivers father, “This is the first time Kevin has exited his car and entered the track during a caution.”
The social media response has been extremely interesting as you can imagine. Fans for and against Tony Stewart have made comments about “Smoke”. Most who love him, do so because of his fiery competitiveness and no holds barred attitude – he does tell it like it is. The exact opposite of Jimmy Johnson – a consummate athlete and professional on and off the track.
Comments have fallen across a broad spectrum – support and encouragement for their friend, while others are demanding jail time for the “hot-headed driver”.
Several eyewitnesses in turn one have said, “Tony hit the gas”. And, that’s going to be a problem for Tony since he was already high on the track under a caution.
Another element of this story is what happened in 2013 at the same track with Tony Stewart. According to Mike Leslie with Fox46:
“Tony was here last year and caused a huge pile up. A woman was severely injured.” Williams is referring to a crash at Canandaigua in July of 2013, where another sprint car driver, Alysha Ruggles, was hit and broke her back. Stewart admitted fault after that race, on the public address system.
When you factor in what happened that night, his long history of having a temper, and his experience from 2013, the circumstances just don’t look good for Tony Stewart (Smoke). He did avoid the NASCAR race last Sunday in New York and won’t race this Sunday in Michigan. The only absolute in racing is you can’t finish a race if you don’t have enough gas, so we’re not sure what will happen to Tony, but we do know this, only Tony Stewart knows what he did that night, and he’ll have to live with it.
Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, something is out of tune. ~ C.G. Jung