I can think of far better circumstances under which to resume NASCAR blogging. In fact, I cannot think of many worse circumstances. However, things need to be said about last night’s incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in which sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. died after being struck by Stewart’s car.
The first, and perhaps most important, thing needing to be said is that far, far too much has already been said by those who either do not know better or should know better but are incapable of shutting up. No one needs another uninformed opinion. No one needs another mawkish piece of tripe trolling for attention under the guise of expressing sympathy for Ward. What is needed is informed observation, preferably with a minimum of opinion.
There are exactly two people who know the full details of what happened at Canandaigua, and one of them is unavailable for comment. Therefore, there is an overriding element in all this: We. Don’t. Know. All any of us can do is surmise.
The most probable explanation is you had a perfect storm. Ward was acting like an idiot walking out onto the track. Stewart gassed the car in order to kick out the rear end, thereby kicking dirt on Ward. Hardly the first driver to do this. Problem was, Ward was too close. Or the car kicked out too far. Or both. You know the end result.
Bear in mind that more than a bit of the “mad monk” mindset permeates the NASCAR driver community; the belief that no one – as in no one – understands their life or what they do. It is a closed society following its own rules and making no apologies for doing so. The drivers, both past and present, will express knowing sympathy for Ward’s family – once. They will close ranks around Stewart. And not give a rip how it plays in the public opinion court.
Stewart himself will in all likelihood resume racing, at least at the Sprint Cup level and almost certainly will be back in the car come Michigan next Sunday. Whether he gets back into a sprint car remains to be seen. The incident will forever be part of his legacy. Will it affect him on the track? Doubtful. Race car drivers are a breed apart; their ability to compartmentalize their life and block all possible distractions is unparalleled. It may sound heartless, but without it no driver on any level could ever get behind the wheel. Off the track remains to be seen.
There will most likely be no criminal charges filed against Stewart. Possibly reckless endangerment; at the worst involuntary manslaughter. Civil charges are another matter, and it is doubtless not a matter of if but when the Ward family will file a lawsuit against Stewart and probably the track.
The media, both traditional and new, has been abominable throughout this matter. There are exceptions, but regrettably they are the exceptions. The worst offender is ESPN. There was no justification whatsoever to show the accident as part of its pre-race coverage, and the dumbfounded “gee, how come none of the drivers want to talk about this” reporting added stupidity to stupidity. Inexcusable.
That is all I have to say. Would that others would take the same tack and shut up. Please.