By Doug Halberstadt
Tony Stewart’s NASCAR career should be over. He struck and killed a fellow competitor last Saturday night, Aug. 9, on a dirt track in Canandaigua, New York. From the videos that I’ve watched, it appears to me Stewart could have possibly taken more evasive action to avoid striking Kevin Ward Jr. with his car.
Ward and Stewart were competing in the Empire Super Sprints series at the half-mile dirt track in upstate New York. The two were involved in an on-track altercation that sent Ward’s car crashing into the wall. After coming to a stop, Ward climbed out of his car and stormed out onto the track, waving his arms in Stewart’s direction.
When Stewart approached the animated Ward on the next lap under caution, he ran him over. From eyewitnesses at the track and from what I could tell from videos circulating on social media, Stewart appeared to gun his engine and hit Ward with the right rear end of his car. Stewart could have instead possibly followed the path of the car ahead of him and avoided hitting Ward.
According to Sheriff Philip Povero, the investigation is being reviewed by the district attorney, and there has been no evidence to support intent or criminal charges. As a result of the incident at the Empire Super Sprints, Stewart sat out Sunday’s (Aug. 10) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International.
Stewart released the following statement after the incident: “There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr. It’s a very emotional time for all involved, and it is the reason I’ve decided not to participate in today’s race at Watkins Glen. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this tragedy.”
Stewart has a reputation as a hot head. There’s simply no excuse for his actions last Saturday night. I’m in no way implying that Stewart intended to fatally injure Ward. More than likely, Stewart was attempting to respond to Ward’s aggressive actions toward him. It’s one thing to throw your helmet at another driver. This was not that type of testosterone-driven retaliation. This was much worse. It’s unforgivable for anyone to strike an unprotected pedestrian with a race car. I don’t care how provoked Stewart may have felt, he was — and always will be — 100 percent wrong for not steering his car completely clear of Ward.
Regardless of the outcome of the investigations being made by the county officials where this incident occurred, NASCAR should send a message to Stewart. It should be concise and unyielding: “Mr. Stewart, because of your on-track actions last weekend, you are no longer welcome in our sport, ever!”
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Aug. 13-19, 2014, issue