Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

August 11, 2014

Challenging Week for Racing Fans

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 10:52 pm

Bad mistakeThe grand sport of auto racing made the national news this week for all the wrong reasons. The sprint car accident that claimed the life of aspiring racer Kevin Ward, Jr. in upstate New York before NASCAR ran at Watkins Glen touched off a firestorm. Still is. When I awakened from my slumber Sunday morning every initial report that arrived via my smart devices had already positioned Tony Stewart as a crazy race driver who mowed down another driver and killed him, and that video was out there. My imagination concocted a lurid visual picture of Tony Stewart as a mad man who aimed for the young Ward and took him out.

TonyThen I watched the video expecting the worst. What I saw was a fairly innocuous accident, a yellow, then cars slowing for it. Meantime Ward, completely uninjured, extracted himself from the cockpit and proceeded to run around his wrecked car and into the racing line to express his displeasure with Stewart when Tony came around.

The guy in front of Stewart barely avoided Ward, who was running down the middle of the track. Tony did not. It was oddly reminiscent of an accident in a cart race in Vancouver in 1990 in which a track worker wound up in front of Willy T. Ribbs’ left rear and also paid the ultimate price. Those in the know have indicated how difficult it is to see out of a winged sprint car under normal circumstances. Add in a dimly lit track and a driver in a black uniform with a black helmet running toward cars going about 80 and a recipe for disaster results.

It was a racing accident. The Zapruder-film-like frame by frame ‘analysts’ weighing in Stewart’s possible culpability have suggested Stewart may have intended to buzz Ward by getting close and goosing the throttle. That may be something we will never know, but either way Stewart has a conscience with which he will spend the rest of his career trying to put back into balance.

InsaneThe national media have played up the fact (and the video) of Tony Stewart being some kind of hot head to spice it all up. All the while the general reputation of NASCAR participants and race drivers in general of seeming like type-A redneck hooligans is enhanced. That is a shame. The one thing that would have presented the needless accident would have been Ward staying strapped into his car until the safety crews got there. The smart thing to do would have been to approach Stewart after he got out of his car after the race away from the track. That is fact. People will also forget that Tony Stewart is a race driver who does it because he loves every single part of it as much as possible. Asking him to give up the side trips is like asking a cart enthusiast that refuses to budge from 1995 to function as a non-developmentally challenged adult and lose the arrogance.

DanicaIt is easy to assume many more than usual tuned in to ESPN on Sunday to watch the NASCAR race at Watkins Glen. If so there were probably thrilled. It was a crash-fest on a road course red flagged twice to take care of barriers either ripped off their posts or smashed to smithereens. Using ARMCO barriers in accident-prone areas of the track is, to borrow a word from the president of the track, insane.

Some IndyCar fans pine for a return to either Watkins Glen or Road America, but the people who run the tracks disagree with the traditional IndyCar model of demanding 1.5 million or more to show up. They have a point considering neither IndyCar nor the tracks seem willing to promote events, and title sponsorship is challenging. Ever wonder why IndyCar seeks events in far flung corners of the world? Those folks are willing to cough up the bucks. My hope for 2015? That Pocono, Fontana or Texas do not  get screwed up, and add another oval such as Chicagoland back to the schedule.



  1. It has been amazing to see the Tony haters coming out on this. That fact is young Mr. Ward lost his temper and did something extremely foolish. And trying to read into it something about Tony motives is unfair. Everything happened very fast. And the car does not veer right until Ward is struck. The car has clearly lost some control after hitting him. Plus, any attempt to turn a sprint car left on a dirt track is going to result in the back end moving right. Tony might have seen him at the last second and tried to avoid him.

    It would be criminal to charge Tony with anything. But in the Peoples Republic of New York anything is possible.

    Comment by Bob F. — August 12, 2014 @ 12:33 pm | Reply

  2. Tony A) INTENTIONALLY spun Ward. B) was well aware of the caution he’d just caused, C) knew exactly where the accident scene was, D) could have assumed Ward might be reacting to being blatantly removed from the event by exiting his car, E) was the highest car on the track (as opposed to driving low to avoid the scene) F) you can see Ward attempt to jump backwards just prior to being struck, so even though Ward was stupid for doing it, Tony was in control of his own car with the wheel in his hands. He had no business up near the wrecked car to begin with.

    Comment by Bob Up — August 12, 2014 @ 4:48 pm | Reply

    • If you look at the video, the kid was either exactly in the middle of the track or slightly below the center line. He had no business being there. Stewart would not have assumed the kid would be that foolish. I’m not even sure Stewart ever saw him.

      Comment by Bob F. — August 12, 2014 @ 9:16 pm | Reply

  3. Ryan Newman was right to lash out at the anachronistic barriers at Watkins Glen. The wrecks they’ve had there are as bad or worse than any they have at the ovals, even Daytona or Talladega. IndyCar should give that place a wide berth until the walls are modernized, which probably has the chance of a pine tree in hell of ever happening, as well as coming up with the “showing up” bucks. It’s probably just as well where the latter is concerned–if those multi-ton stock cars can get so smashed up in a wreck, imagine what would happen to a fragile open-cockpit vehicle. Granted, WG is in a beautiful part of the country, and it has much tradition, but it’s also obsolete for modern racers.

    Comment by DOUG — August 12, 2014 @ 11:49 pm | Reply

  4. why is it cool when tony stewart does it but not when kevin ward does it?

    Comment by old fart fan — August 14, 2014 @ 10:24 am | Reply

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