Tony Stewart, a.k.a. ‘Smoke’, Saturday night in Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, hit 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. under caution. Ward got out of his car and walked towards Stewart’s car, taunting Stewart. Stewart’s car approached Ward and his right-rear tire hit Ward, and propelled him into the air. Ward was later pronounced dead.
All kinds of rumors and speculation swirled, on whether the death was accidental or malicious. Stewart, as of Sunday, has been cleared of any charges. On CNN Monday morning, Sheriff Philip C. Povero of Ontario County, New York “This is an ongoing investigation, and all options remain available.”
Now all of the opinions and conspiracy theories have come out of the woodwork. Every social media crack-pot and ratings starved shock jock has an opinion on a sport they do not follow. Some are just race fans that have never been a fan of ‘Smoke’. All that has started a whirl wind of jumping to conclusions.
It’s a dangerous game trying to read a man’s mind. It’s even more dangerous to do so, when a prison sentence could be at stake. All of these false claims and over speculations could lead to a media fuelled witch hunt.
Tony Stewart is a hard-nosed red blooded driver. He is not a murderer. He’s made a great career from living on the edge with a competitive flare that rivals Dale Earnhardt Sr.
That fire is what makes drivers like him great. It doesn’t mean he would run over a 20 year old kid on a small time dirt track. Smoke has been in confrontations on tracks numerous times. A young kid shaking his hands in rage would not send him over the edge. He is a professional and three-time Sprint Cup champion.
The wreck that happened to put Ward Jr. on the side of track, was caused by Tony Stewart’s car, but there’s a chance he didn’t even know that they bumped. And as dimly lit as that track was, the vision had to be at a minimum with the dirt flying all around. Kevin Ward Jr. should have stayed in his car.
This horrible event brings to light a very important issue on driver safety. Drivers in all divisions should be required to stay in their vehicles until rescue vehicles arrive to transport them out of harms way. Too many instances result in drivers chucking helmets at cars going by after they’ve been wrecked. The only way to stop this is to hit them where it counts, in the wallet. A one or more race suspension would make these drivers think twice.
I may not have the solution, but something has to be done. Some say the rage and side show during wrecks is good publicity for the sport. Some would say it takes Nascar to the pro wrestling level. These verbal and tempered fuelled rivalries are great, but they have to be policed and kept off the actual track. In the end, fans shouldn’t be surprised that a driver lost his life during an in-traffic, on track tirade. They should be shocked that it hasn’t happened before, several times.
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