Tony Stewart’s NASCAR career should be over

August 13, 2014

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

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

34 Comments

  1. Bobby VanSistine

    August 13, 2014 at 12:06 am

    Any research into this story would have shown that he had to gun the engine because of the way these vehicles are designed. For the power steering to really kick in RPMs are needed and to get the necessary RPMs he had to gun the engine. Also you fail to in any way show how Steward was provoked or why he was angry. Steward had no reason to be angry his car was not wrecked and there was no history between Ward and him so your assumption that he had some emotional connection is flimsy at best. This is a poor attempt at creating a catchy headline and it fails to uphold any type of journalistic efforts. I think based on this poor reporting the headline should read “Doug Halberstadt’s writing career should be over”

    • everythingcar

      August 13, 2014 at 1:23 pm

      Any research into this story would find many Sprint car drivers stating there is no reason why Tony would not have seen Ward on the track. While I also believe that Tony had no intention of doing any bodily harm to Ward, he did choose to fail to take proper evasive action for reasons that only he knows. I agree that at minimum a lifelong ban from racing should be Tony’s punishment for his actions, or lack there of.

      Speculation is that Tony, being who he is and based on previous retaliatory actions, was trying to scare Ward. Teach him a lesson if you will. I think this time the “teacher” became the student.

      • shanno n

        August 13, 2014 at 2:22 pm

        Are you really that stupid to post that, what sprint car drivers do you know, because if you actually knew any you’d see that, 1.) That track was poorly light and Kevin was in all black NO ONE CAN SEE HIM, 2.) There was no real way for him to see him until he put himself in front of that car. That kid broke the rules of dirt track sprint car racing, you settle your problem driving, and you don’t get out of your race car unless your on fire until then you wait until the infield emergency crew is there to help you. Tony did nothing wrong he was racing a race car, it was a clean slide job nothing more and that boy decided to not use him brain and think about the consequences of getting out of his car. Another thing if you notice that track barely went yellow which means more then half that track was still slowing down from race speed…. in all you are a uninformative ass who knows nothing of sprint car racing and should probably just shut up you look stupid know and just got told off by a girl. And yes tony has been known to throw a punch but to intentionally hurt someone well hes just not that type of person, EVERYONE WHO HAS ANYTHING TO SAY BETTER ONLY BE SOMEONE WHO IS PIT CREW OR DRIVES A SPRINT, NOT A MODIFIED, NOT A MIDGET….. A WINGED CAR!!

    • Karen

      August 13, 2014 at 2:14 pm

      Agree completely Bobby! I wonder how many years experience Doug, the so called “journalist” has racing sprint cars?! Yeah…. That’s what I thought … He needs to go back to the National Enquirer!!!!

    • Bob Stevens

      August 13, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      How can anyone take you serious when you don’t even know his name? It’s Stewart, not Steward. For someone so concerned with research you should probably do some of your own.

    • bob

      August 13, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      Agree. Doug you did not see everything. How do u know He even seen the guy on the track.

  2. Fred Wescott

    August 13, 2014 at 11:39 am

    If you knew ANYTHING about sprint cars and midget racing you would know it wasn’t intentional. I spent many Sunday nights at Angel Park speedway in Sun Prairie Wisconsin and no driver in his right mind would get out of his car and run onto the track after a wreck. The young mans tragic end to his life was his own fault. Tony had no way of avoiding hitting him. Ignorance caused this accident not Tony Stewart. Blame is on the young man and his seeking revenge after spinning out.

  3. ace

    August 13, 2014 at 11:52 am

    The thing that you are leaving out is this. Tony has thrown a punch at kevin before the race started so yes Tony was mad about something and then to the comment that Tony had to gun the engine to turn the front wheels is false. I watched the video and did not hear any one else rev their engines to turn their cars and that is fact. So I agree with Doug tiny should be banned fit life

    • shanno n

      August 13, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      Where is your factual proof of that, until the. You should just quit talkin s— about something you know obviously nothing about, you weren’t there you don’t know what happened or if there was a problem.

      • ace

        August 13, 2014 at 3:43 pm

        I know a hell of a lot more then you think I know. You don’t know Me but you assume you do. There was an article that I read where Tony punched Kevin before the race. Plus it has been said by Kevin’s friends on some news feeds that tony and Kevin were always at odds with each other because Kevin kept beating tony on the track. Do all you tony lovers out there can kiss my butt

        • jay

          August 20, 2014 at 2:26 am

          I would love to see that article. Please share it. Because even kevin wards parents said there was never any previous altercations between him and stewart. And if stewart did punch kevin before the race then I severely doubt he would be allowed to race there.

          Fact check before you blurt out what you heard from a friend of a friend of a friends neighbors cousin.

  4. Kevin

    August 13, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Let me see…….an idiot wearing black at night intentionally jumps in-front of a race car………………..

  5. Bill Rose

    August 13, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Lots of people are placing blame on an accident that would have never occurred if a 20 year old boy would have stayed in his car. You should be banned for life for being STUPID for walking on a track while cars are racing. Did the young man who died really think cars would stop for him on a race track?

    Kids are carrying guns on the streets and think nothing of it. When they die we blame the police officers for their death. When a kid starts a fire nowadays, we ask what made him do such a stupid act and we blame the parents. When a reporter writes a terrible article, the editor gets blamed? We need to place the blame where it should be, with PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY.

  6. Rick

    August 13, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    Doug, you are normally spot on with your viewpoints but I’m afraid you’ve missed the mark here. A lot happens in a short amount of time on a race track, even when the caution flag has been thrown. You are assuming that Stewart saw Ward on the track and intentionally drove dangerously close to him. The video clearly shows Ward getting close to several of the cars passing by ahead of Stewart’s and having to jump backwards to avoid one of them. In all likelihood, Stewart was following the car ahead of him and had no idea that Ward had put himself in the direct path of his car. Once he spotted Ward, as an evasive maneuver, Stewart then steered hard left and punched the gas to avoid him. Bottom line: Ward is 100% responsible for his reckless actions that unfortunately cost him his life.

  7. Stephen Martin

    August 13, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Doug,
    Have you covered many dirt track races? Keep in mind these are not the same type of cars you would see at an asphalt track like Rockford Speedway. Besides rehashing what another hack of a reporter did, what new insight have you brought to us? Do you think you have more knowledge then the police and DA? They have seen videos (that we have not seen) as well as talked to witnesses (that we have not spoken to) but you are basing your entire story over the comments of people who run to tell their view. I fully agree with freedom of speech and you are 100% entitled your view. I will not attack your view, but understand with your position you have a responsibility to your readers. You should report the facts. If you are not knowledgeable about a specific story you are covering, then maybe you should call on people who are. Go to a local dirt track. Watch how they turn on the track at lower speeds. Sit in one with a helmet on, in the dark going 45-50 mph and have something jump out at you that doesn’t belong on the track. Take a moment and go look at the picture that I posted on the FB post showing the drivers wide open view during the day time. I am not asking you to change your mind or your story. I guess I was hoping you would have done actual research instead of reading what other non dirt racing reporters wrote. Sadly a young man made a horrible decision to get out of his race car and he and his family paid the ultimate price for that. For that my heart goes out to them. My heart also goes out to Tony Stewart because he has to live with what happened, even though it was not his fault. Some people will still look at him as a murder and that is just sad. Hopefully you will never get put in a position that you are driving and someone/something jumps out towards you and you hit them. If that happens (I honestly hope it never does) I will expect you to hand in your keys and freedom without being asked to do so.

    • Laura

      August 13, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      What you said could never have been said more perfectly. I applaud you. As I pondered this story as I was doing dishes my blood kept boiling but every single thing I thought of you wrote perfectly. Many many drivers get heated and have tempers and act on them. Had it been Gordon in Tonys car that night, or Harvick or anyone who has thrown a punch at a fellow competitor which should equal 42-43 other nascar drivers maybe with the exception of Danica, this story wouldn’t exist. No one would be calling for a lifelong ban, jail time, murder charges, etc. One of the first things we are taught as children is to not walk in traffic, at night wear light clothes, and so on. I’m sorry for this young mans family, I’m sad that his life is gone. Every life is precious, as is smoke’s. As sorry and heart broken many are aside from ward jr’s family and friends no ones is more sorry and heart broken then Tony Stewart. His life has forever been changed for the worse because one young obviously very inexperienced man carelessly made the choices he did that resulted in his families heart break and forever changed a good man. 100% of the blame falls on Ward Jr. It was a tragic accident that like most could’ve been 100% avoided had he made the correct choices that night. I have no doubt in my mind that Tony did everything he possibly could to not hit him, including the “suspicious” fish tail which anyone knows turn hard left on dirt your back end will eventually follow the front end but not as easy as all these haters would like to think. Had it been your driver that night in the 14 car your opinion would be totally different and that in itself is so sad. Tony has been my favorite driver since he began in nascar, Kyle Busch my least favorite since the minute he began but I know I would never accuse Kyle, or anyone in that sport of maliciously running over someone unless he did so with pure evidence and intent to do so. There’s a freeze frame out there of just before impact that shows just how far down the track this guy walked. Tony didn’t drive up to him. I know my middle finger would still get it’s point across from up by my car then down in front of a moving car, in the dark on wet dirt. His inexperience and his actions caused his death. Easier to blame smoke then to blame your friend, brother or son? Yes, but it doesn’t make it better and changes nothing. #istandwithsmoke #14forever. To the “reporter” who wrote this garbage, maybe the national enquirer would be better for you for your reporting. To the person I’m replying to, maybe you should turn in a résumé for this guys job.

    • bob

      August 13, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      Agree use your head Doug.

  8. Pat

    August 13, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    You can not see anything from the right side of those cars. Add darkness,dim lighting and someone wearing all black and tell me, Would you be able to see anyone coming up to your car??? Also, look at the fact that these drivers have no radios nor spotters in these cars. Get your facts straight before trying to ruin a mans life.

  9. laura

    August 13, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    It’s been said Tony’s temper got the best of him. Considering his car was not wrecked or damaged and he could have finished the race, why would he have been enraged? Also, if he had run “over” Kevin wouldn’t the car’s right side been lifted far off the ground as it went over him? I didn’t see that in the video.

    • jay

      August 20, 2014 at 2:35 am

      He didn’t run over ward. As stewart attempted to avoid ward the back of the car slid out as is required to steer the car and the rear tire hit ward launching him.

  10. Nicole

    August 13, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    Doug,

    There is new video footage that you have obviously not seen and another driver has come forward. Kevin Ward Jr, grabbed on and hung on to the wing, you NEVER get out of your car as a driver, Racing 101, maybe since writing is your career and you are not well versed in the sport I guess your writing career should be over….

  11. KD

    August 13, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Wow, Doug, you’ve really let your emotions overpower your responsibilities as a journalist. Here are a few questions for the journalist buried somewhere deep inside you: (1) Have you ever sat in a winged sprint car, in full equipment, at night, while wearing a full-face helmet with numerous layers of tear-offs on it? What was the visibility like? (2) Have you ever stood next to the right front of a winged sprinter to see how close you could get without being struck if it was moving? (3) How many nights have you spent in harm’s way on the infield of a marginally lit dirt short track during sprint car races? (4) What was the only other fatality to occur at this dirt track, under what circumstances (it was a flagman, on foot, on the back stretch, who was struck by a car under the yellow flag) (5) What happens to the power steering on a sprint car at low RPMS? (6) Which of the two drivers who was the only one to show visible rage before the fatal accident? (7) If a different driver on the track had hit Ward, would you be calling for his/her banishment from the sport, or is your opinion tainted by personal bias? (8) Since you seem to know exactly what happened, why was Ward’s arm clearly visible holding onto the #14 car’s wing before he was pulled under the right rear wheel? Which part of Stewart’s car made contact first, and why? (9) How is it that you have determined that with so many cars on the track, and most of them nearer the camera than Stewart’s, it is his engine that is revving? For the record, I am a 35-year veteran of motorsports writing and photography on deadline, and also teach college journalism courses. You should consider taking a few.

    • Doug Halberstadt

      August 13, 2014 at 4:20 pm

      KD,

      As someone who claims to teach journalism you should be able to differentiate between an opinion column and a news article. I would gladly put up my journalism degree against yours any day of the week.

  12. J Childers

    August 13, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    Doug doesn’t care about the facts,,,Just trying to score some readers. It will work for now,,but later on “FAILURE”!

  13. Chris

    August 13, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Agree with Nicole. Check out this view:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAe9-JVCmek

    Says it all and is not likes its not evident. The kid grabbed the wing and threw himself against the car. Tony probably never realized that Kevin grabbed it and was most likely trying to get off the track. Until Kevin threw himself on the side of the car, Tony had cleared him just as the car directly in front on Tony did.
    Sad – but the kid’s anger got him killed, not Tony’s.

  14. Jeff

    August 13, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    It is apparent by your column you know little if anything about racing. A 20 year old is dead because in a moment of rage he left the safety of his car to try and make a point. Sad day in the racing world and a tragic loss of life. To try and pin this on Tony is absurd. This article is proof you need to be looking at a new career choice.

  15. Matt

    August 13, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Doug,
    It is sad that you would write anything on this tragedy with putting your opinion in it. Report only facts, especially when it is on such a tragedy.
    Did you call Sterling Marlin a murderer when Dale Sr. Died, if so go report on the weather. You can be wrong every time and no one will say a word to you.

  16. Rick

    August 15, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    Doug,

    You unwittingly destroy your own arbitrary judgement and conviction of Tony within your first paragraph. You say definitively that his career should be over yet make the admission that he COULD HAVE POSSIBLY taken more evasive action to avoid the incident. It’s a good thing you’re a sports writer and not a judge. I think a retraction is in order here.

    “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.”

  17. Chuck

    August 15, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    I am a Sprint Car driver myself. Kevin Ward’s death is sad; however he caused his own death. He should NEVER have gotten out of his car unless it was on fire and secondly and even more stupid on his part was walking toward traffic. I cannot even believe this is under any type of investigation at all. When a driver has an issue with another driver he confronts that driver in the pits NOT ON THE TRACK! This kid evidently was frustrated at how aggressive Tony was driving during the race. Well for all of you folks who have never been behind the wheel of an OPEN WHEEL SPRINT CAR that weighs around 1200lbs and has around 700+ HP let me inform you of something it is a different than driving your cars to work or driving your garden tractor! These cars have a stagger, the right rear tire is much larger than the left rear tire, and they are only designed to turn left. When you punch the accelerator the butt end of the car swings to the right. as Tony passed Kevin Ward, keep in mind Tony’s field of vision is only 75 degrees maximum (straight ahead) depending upon what helmet restraint and racing seat (with helmet restraints) he uses. Kevin was well out of his field of vision and I guarantee Tony only saw him for a split second up close. The video shows he tried to avoid Kevin and once past him he hit the gas but Kevin kept walking (HIS MISTAKE) again that large right rear tire must have caught him and thrown him. Tony knew something happened because the video also showed him stopped just up the track. O.K. having said that before you people pass judgment on a driver in this case it just happens to be Tony Stewart, learn about the car first and foremost and the sport. Tony Stewart is a fierce competitor no matter what race car he is driving. He once said if the money was there he would stay on the Dirt! Kevin Ward was simply out classed that night by a “World of Outlaws” class driver and probably had no business participating in that race. In Oklahoma they will drive over you if you are in their way and that is a fact! Cars bumping, pushing, cars rolling over tires, cars 3 wide into turns when a track only has space for 2 cars, cars rolling….etc., good hard fast racing that is what draws fans to a Sprint car race. I know Tony must feel horrible about this accident. He is a great guy. I hope one day he will return to racing. By the way on my shop wall hangs a front axle that is bent in half. I was put into the wall by number 14 (Tony Stewart) and no I did not get out of my car!

  18. L. K. H.

    August 15, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    #236 “Likes” carries more weight than a couple haters that have to resort to character attacks and name calling. It drains their point of view of having any intelligence or value. Desperate, sad and pathetic!
    Doug always remember.. Be DRIVEN with purpose. Be RELENTLESS in your alignment with EXCELLENCE. Pay no mind to the disimpassioned impotent HATERS. -Dr. Steve Maraboli

  19. kirk

    August 16, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    i would figure common sense would tell you NOT to walk out on to ANY race track ESP while race cars are on it running.
    but i have to tell you the truth I DONT BLAME TONY STEWART AT ALL
    i saw stewart put him in the wall and then i saw kid get mad and walk out in front of stewarts car cut and dried to me THE KID made a fatal choice i feel sorry for his family and mr stewart

  20. baadluck13

    August 17, 2014 at 9:48 am

    (I had told myself that I was not going to be ugly or better yet, not even respond. Sigh, I hate when I am wrong. ) You sir are an idiot. Have you even watched the video? Tony did not wreck that kid he left plenty of room between the kid and the wall. Never touching him. Jr can’t drive. He lost the drift/slide wrecking himself. It actually looks as if Jr got scared that Tony was going to wreck him and let off throttle. That is what put him in the wall. And for your other miss information….Jr got out of car walked down the track waiting for Tony. When Tony passed by, Jr grabbed the wing of Stewarts car (essentially “hitching a ride on Stewart ‘ car). That is why you hear Tony rev the motor. He was trying to get the boy to jump off so that he would NOT get hurt.

  21. Rance Miller

    August 20, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    Everything that is made by man and moves has RULES to follow for Safety. Trains,Planes Ships,Motorcycles and Cars, all have very specific Safety Rules and proceedures that must be followed for their safe operation and everyone involved. We make Rules after incident’s occur,at which time is after the fact.Then Rule’s are considered written in blood. This young driver violated a Safety Rule, one that was made for his and all other drivers benefits. He showed no concern for his own safety when he did this and I am sure he signed a document acknowledging the Rules for that track and Organization he was racing in. Nobody is responsible for this young drivers death but himself, he violated a safety rule and that’s sad but the reality of this incident. If this young driver would have complied with the Rules he would still be here today, to race again tomorrow. I am a Locomotive Engineer an we live or die by RULES,that’s how we operate safely and consistently Nationwide. I have been involved in road crossing fatalities and suicides over my 38 year career. I have been very grateful that we have rules to follow, operate and comply with 100 % without fail. These Rules are not just good ideas or suggestions, hopeful wishes ,they are what people in transportation live by, and the same for racing. All the incidents that I have experienced was a result of someone elses STUPIDITY or them IGNORING the RULES, or a LAW. I am not a RACE CAR FAN FANATIC , I watch a little and will attend a local track event on occasion . But Tony needs to get back in the saddle as soon as possible after this type of accident , or he possibly will never drive a race car again.

  22. Maria

    August 24, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    Doug Halberstadt
    “Sports Columnist”

    “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.”

    Are you a NASCAR Expert?
    There are some readers who actually value a well written story which provides facts and lacks the opinion of a “Journalist”.
    Sensationalism may sell papers but it does not earn respect!
    Take Note of the following:

    Written by NBCSports.com’s MotorSportsTalk Jerry Bonkowski:
    ‘As someone once told me many years ago when I first got into journalism, “Opinions without facts are like noses. They both can smell.”’

    http://motorsportstalk.nbcsports.com/2014/08/10/dont-be-too-quick-to-judge-tony-stewart-let-the-experts-do-their-jobs/

    This unbiased BLOG shares more FACTS:
    http://khak.com/update-on-the-kevin-ward-jr-tony-stewart-tragedy/

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