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Voices From The Cheap Seats: Reason Must Prevail Over Emotion
(Credit: CIA Editorial Photography)

Voices From The Cheap Seats: Reason Must Prevail Over Emotion

The recent events at Canandaigua Motorsports Park involving Tony Stewart and the death of Kevin Ward, Jr. are nothing short of tragic.

What is even more tragic is that it all could have been avoided.

Now, while what I have to say may seem callous to some, it needs to be said among all the media hype about this incident that we are going to have to endure for the coming months. Hey, America, y’all are so enamored with so-called reality TV shows – well, this is ‘reality’ writing. You may or may not like it, but your approval doesn’t change the facts.

The biggest fact is that Ward did something very, very stupid. Unfortunately, in this instance, it cost him his life.

Another unfortunate thing is that, while you “can’t fix stupid,” as one popular comedian says, any sanctioning body of any series could and should include a rule that states something to the effect of, “unless threatened by fire or other perceived life threatening circumstances, any driver involved in a crash must remain in the vehicle until emergency personnel arrive at said vehicle. Any driver deemed to be in violation of this policy will be immediately suspended from ALL further participation in that series or track for the remainder of the season – no exceptions, no appeal.”

But there’s the problem: there is no such rule of which I am aware.

Ward exited his vehicle, perhaps like he’d seen the NASCAR driver do just a couple of years ago at Bristol to vent his frustration with Matt Kenseth, to give the big NASCAR star a piece of his mind, not to mention probably a finger as well.

(Credit: CIA)

Tony Stewart may or may not be at fault for the accident at Canandaigua – it’s tough to say for now. (Credit: CIA)

As we all know, it did not go as planned. Ward did make the highlight reels but not as a nifty little clip in a racing commercial like he might have hoped.

The long and short of it all is this: Kevin Ward, Jr. walked to a place that he had no business being. Yes, it is sad and tragic but that does not exonerate Ward of his actions.

As for Tony Stewart, while we all know what a downright prick he can be, I find it extremely hard to believe that he maneuvered his car in any way in an attempt to deliberately hit Ward, or even to scare him. In fact, I do not believe that Stewart even saw him – or if he did, it was at the very last instant. How would he?

What does any driver in racecar have to fear from a man standing on the track (in this case, what appears to be a poorly lighted section of the track) about to throw a helmet or flip you the bird?

Was Stewart even aware that Ward had exited his vehicle and was waiting for him to come around again? While I’m sure he probably has a spotter for such races, was this spotter watching Ward and warning Stewart of his probable intentions? I doubt it. If there was a spotter, he/she was probably busier trying to look at Stewart’s car to see if he’d sustained damage from the contact. If there was no spotter, again in all likelihood, Stewart probably never had a clue.

At any rate, the simple fact of the matter is that until further video evidence or a confession surfaces, only Tony Stewart knows what truly happened. If he did in fact attempt to scare the young racer and tragically miscalculated, well, that is something he has to live with for the rest of his life.

As things stand now, investigating authorities have said that this is nothing more than a tragic accident. But wait – listen for it – do you hear those black helicopters? Yes, that’s right, there will be many nut jobs out there who will be of the opinion that Stewart has or will buy his way out of any trouble he might be in. He is, after all, a rich and famous celebrity.

To them I say, “where have you been for the last 30 or so years?” If there is one thing shallow Americans love more than their rich and famous celebrities, it’s rich and famous celebrities that go and do something stupid and lose it all and become a disgraceful laughingstock. No, I don’t see any special treatment being given here; it is only Tony Stewart, after all.

Before I go, there is one more thing I’d like you to think about and it is based in reality as well.

What if it had been Joe Schmo, of the famed Joe Schmo Racing garage, in the car instead of Tony Stewart? Outside of a local community in upstate New York, chances are you never would have ever heard of Kevin Ward, Jr. and I’d be sitting here bitching about Brian France again or something. It’s sad but it’s true.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Ward family – and yes, to Tony Stewart, too. Let’s hope all sanctioning bodies will take my advice and do all they can to curb this kind of behavior.

Stay off the wall, (and ESPECIALLY OFF THE TRACK ON FOOT!!!)

Jeff Meyer

About Jeff Meyer

Jeff Meyer
Jeff is one of the longest-tenured staffers at Frontstretch, starting his second decade as the resident humorist and pain-in-the-butt that keeps NASCAR (and his fellow co-workers) honest. Writing Voices From The Cheap Seats, every Tuesday, his BSNews! Segments along with alter ego “Stu Padasso” have developed a large following. Jeff makes his home in Tennessee and is a Bristol groupie, camping out for the August night race every year since he can remember.

13 comments

  1. I also agree that the Nascar media are handling this the right way. The mainstream media almost disgust me with the way they have sensationalized this by implying in their article titles that this was done deliberately without any facts to back it up. But since it falls into that gray area they love to play in, its fair game. Not fair to Stewart, nor the Ward family. While people may be crucifying Stewart, just remember. He has to live with the fact that his car was the reason why this turned fatal and he has to live with that for the rest of his life.

  2. ThanksJeff, for a very balanced, objective and reasoned column. I too am convinced that Stewart is grieving as much as anyone except the Ward family and friends. It’s a sad and tragic situation that no one saw coming. A rule such as the one you propose will probably come sooner than any of us think. It always happens after the unimagineable happens. Too late for Kevin Ward but maybe it will keep the same tragedy from replaying for someone else.

  3. If this happened to Kasey Kahne we wouldnt be having this discussion. Stewart’s past is haunting him and clouding people’s judgement of his actions in this incident.

  4. Only Tony Stewart knows what was going thru his mind in those last few seconds before he hit the young man. And he will likely carry those thoughts to the grave. Its just interesting to see that 6 cars had passed the young man after he assumed his position and that Stewart’s front wheels were turned to the right when he hit the young man.

    • Russ, I don’t know what video you have seen, but I could hardly make out that it was Stewart’s car, let alone what direction his wheels were pointing. And Kevin definitely was on the move down the track after the first few cars passed by. Dirt cars slide even at low speeds and it is much more likely and logical that Stewart did not see him until it was too late. I see no fault here except for Kevin’s. I wish he had just given him the finger.

  5. Well stated column, the mainstream media reporting on this tragedy has been terrible. A lot of reporters who know nothing about racing or sprint car racing for that matter speculating and drawing wild conclusions. Overall, the racing media has been very good at reporting the story and bring facts to the discussion.

  6. None of us were there. None of us has access to any other video or eye witness or participant accounts. Until the investigation is concluded we have no chance of knowing what happened, if then. Until that time all opinions, mine included, are simply Posterior Pull Out theories. A casualty of PC living is the assumption that all logical conclusion is prejudice. If Joe the Bully gets in an altercation it is not unreasonable to at least suspect that until proven otherwise he probably initiated it. Tony Stewart has shown a lack of self control in the past. It is simply logical thought to at least suspect that he may be at fault here. Still, I prefer to withhold final judgement until all the facts are in.

    • I refuse to believe this anything other than a tragic accident. Yes, some people will never be convinced that Stewart didn’t deliberately hit Ward, but then again Tony never seemed to care about public opinion. Once he is able to move on, as best he can, from this incident, I hope Tony learns some humility. Even people who don’t particularly like him (like me) have come to his defense over the last few days, and will continue to support him through the tough times ahead.

  7. In dirt track racing, in general, no one has a spotter. It’s all the driver.

  8. Here we go again looking at Tonys past. If any of the poorly informed would know, Tonys
    temper has always occured during or after a racing mishap. This was no mishap between Tony and Ward. Ward hit the wall without any contact from Tony. I heard what is about the most stupid comments from a Fox newscaster. These people don’t have a clue, and form their own
    opinions as they are the truth. Reminds me of a bunch of buzzards pecking away from a ded body that cannot defend itself. A really sad way to make a living.

  9. The only way you’ll know for sure whether it was intention or accidental is to know what was in Stewart’s mind at the time it happened and we’ll never know that. On advice from counsel.

    It’s not the first time Tony has injured another driver racing dirt cars and if he continues I doubt it will be the last. Unless he gives it up.

  10. I don’t think for a minute it was deliberate, but Tony being Tony…It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that he was trying to teach the “young punk” a lesson or to scare him a bit and it backfired. Sadly we will never know what was in Tony’s heart and mind. With that said, bashing others for seeing the obvious out of control, immature and mean Tony too numerous to count, it is not unreasonable for one’s first thought to think “Tony’s temper got the best of him”. Sorry. IMO

    • and quite possibly, Tony may have been checking out the damage on the wrecked car and not seen the driver on the track until it was too late. How many rubberneckers on the freeway are involved in incidents because they are not looking where they are going? A realm of possibilities on what really happened.