The Tragedy of Tony Stewart
This past weekend a tragedy occurred Saturday night in the world of racing. No, a driver wasn’t killed in a racing accident or critically injured in a fire, rather a driver was run over under the yellow flag in an angry exchange. That driver’s name was Kevin Ward Jr, and the driver that hit him was NASCAR star and dirt track owner Tony Stewart.
The video is a perfect example of how things can get out of hand so quickly in racing. It is very much an adrenaline driven sport, tempers do flare as when things go wrong. Ward Jjr was unhappy after Stewart slid up into him pushing him into the wall and into a hard spin, and got out of is car to finger wag Stewart. It’s not unusual to see stuff like this, people who are in racing at a local level know that fights in the pits after a wreck are just not that uncommon, and waving your hands at a driver who cut you off or giving them the finger isn’t exactly shocking news. But that is shocking is that in this altercation, Stewart ended up running over the other driver, apparently killing him just about instantly.
(warning, the video clearly shows the event… viewer discretion is advised)
Stewart was having a night away from his NASCAR racing, he was scheduled to race Sunday at Watkins Glen in the top stock car series. After an initial “business as usual” statement from the team, things switched around and he did not race, a replacement driver was in the car for him. Certainly the events of the night before were more than anyone can carry with them and be able to properly concentrate on the job at hand.
Now, under normal circumstances, with an average driver, one might be able to mark this tragedy down as just that, a tragedy. Not to speak ill of the dead, but Ken Ward jr made a critical error walking into the middle of the racing surface while the cars were moving. That is a risky move at the best of times. However, we also have to deal with the issues of Tony Stewart, who more than once has been the hothead, the impulsive angry man who NASCAR had to drag back into line after he started to get physical with members of the media at NASCAR races. He’s a short track racer who very likely was in the middle of a few of those aforementioned pit fights, he’s a tough and gruff guy who doesn’t back down from anyone.
The video suggests that Stewart accelerated as he got to Ward jr. Some suggest it was an attempt to miss the driving standing in the middle of the track by sliding the car, others suggest it was an attempt to scare him, toss dirt on him, whatever. What I can see is that Stewart, knowing that there was an incident (he was part of it) and a car up against the outside wall appears not to have been driving in the safest manner possible, he seemed to be quite high up on the track, with at least one to one and a half full lanes below his car empty which would have given him more space away from the incident and the driver frantically trying to express his anger. With Stewart’s track record of impulsive and angry acts, it’s not so difficult to think that he may have been acting in a way that didn’t consider safety first.
This story is a tragedy for all involved, but it looks like one that could have easily been avoided if either party had been using the head on their shoulders and not some other part of their anatomy to guide their actions. Anger is a dangerous thing, and when you combine that with a motor vehicle, the results can be tragic.
My suggestion for Tony Stewart: Park it. While we may never truly know if this was a tragic accident or a semi-intentional act, you will and you do. It’s time to stop running so fast and stop to consider the world around you, and the results of your actions. It may be that magic moment where you realize that what drives you in racing isn’t just powerful, but downright dangerous. Your desire to compete and to win, to come out on top of every situation is perhaps something that clouds your judgement. No matter what, you will need time to deal with this properly, and that is not done at the wheel of a race car. Take the rest of the season off, and consider the idea of selling your racing toys so you are not tempted to go back and get involved in this again. It’s time to face up to yourself, and be the bigger man.