44 year-old NASCAR champion Tony Stewart struck and killed 20 year-old driver Kevin Ward Jr in a sprint car race Saturday night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York. Ward’s car had become disabled after being struck by Stewart’s, and the young driver walked out onto the track to confront Stewart. As the number 14 car approached, Stewart gunned the engine and struck Ward, killing him.
Tyler Graves, a sprint-car racer and friend of Ward’s, told Sporting News in a phone interview that he was sitting in the Turn 1 grandstands and saw everything that happened.
“Tony pinched him into the frontstretch wall, a racing thing,” Graves said. “The right rear tire went down, he spun on the exit of (Turn) 2. They threw the caution and everything was toned down. Kevin got out of his car. … He was throwing his arms up all over the place at Tony for most of the corner.
“I know Tony could see him. I know how you can see out of these cars. When Tony got close to him, he hit the throttle. When you hit a throttle on a sprint car, the car sets sideways. It set sideways, the right rear tire hit Kevin, Kevin was sucked underneath and was stuck under it for a second or two and then it threw him about 50 yards.”
Among NASCAR fans Tony Stewart is known as ‘Smoke’ because of his temper. Two years ago Stewart, in the reverse role, threw his helmet at a fellow driver because he felt he’d been wrecked on purpose.
Tony Stewart has a long history of anger and aggression on the race track. His hot-headed nature got the best of him over the weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway when he threw his helmet at Matt Kenseth after the two crashed earlier in the race…
…he has a laundry list of incidents on the track. He has been fined for shoving a reporter who snapped a picture and has taken anger management classes to tone down his fiery temper.
By and large, Stewart is a much better person today than he was five or six years ago. He is starting to get far more recognition for what he does on the track, as opposed to the sideshows he was creating outside of his car.
This post comes from Bleacher Report in 2012. How sadly prescient they were:
NASCAR had a chance to send a message to Stewart and the rest of the drivers that these childish actions, which not only hurt the drivers but make the entire sport look foolish, will not be tolerated.
Instead, NASCAR did the exact opposite. By not fining Stewart, NASCAR is enabling him and other drivers to do whatever they want, when they want.
How is anyone going to take a fine seriously if Stewart is able to throw his helmet at another driver while still on the track?
NASCAR messed up big time by not punishing Stewart financially for his child-like behavior on the track. The decision-makers are enabling Stewart, because as we know with children, if they do something wrong once with no consequences, they will do it again until a parent intervenes.
…or until a hearse arrives. I think the days of NASCAR winking at the Dale Earnhardt™ anger management problems of their good ole’ boys are probably over.