Tragedy involving Tony Stewart and Kevin Ward

by Roberta Cowan On Mon, Aug. 11, 2014

Credit: MI Motorsports Image/DTD

I have put this off long enough. This is my perspective on the tragedy involving Tony Stewart and Kevin Ward. My insight and perspective is this.

This was a senseless tragedy that a very good very caring and giving man will carry with him for the rest of his life. And it was avoidable.

Let me start with a few basics. Winged sprint cars have limited visibility and no mirrors. The wing obstructs the view forward and the head and neck restraints on the seat impair it side to side. If the wing is pulled all the way down to give forward down force, the side panels also restrict vision side to side. Winged sprint cars are meant to go in a circle. Their right side tires are bigger than their left side tires. That creates two things. It makes it easy to go around a corner but it makes it so they can’t turn on a dime. If they try to do that they flip over. They do not have transmissions. Their brakes are not that of a street or Cup car. Even at slow speeds they are darty and they don’t respond as quickly as you think they would. They are very affected by moving air. If you want them to turn quickly, you turn the front wheels the opposite direction of where you want the tail of the car to go and hit the gas. Remember in Cars….turn right to go left? That is the principle here. In every driver’s meeting on every dirt track across the country drivers are told before the racing starts, stay in your car in case of a wreck. If you can’t stay in the car, stay with your car. It’s the racing version of stay out of the street. But rules are made because they became necessary, so at some time this has happened before, or something similar.

Now my insight. I am going to start with a few questions thrown out for you to think about. Why would you jump out of your car and run down the track and back the way you came? Where was the safety crew? And since the young man had been racing since he was 4 according to his bio, why didn’t he follow the directions and stay in the car or with the car?

Now it makes no sense to find fault or blame. It’s a horrible tragedy; a young man died and another will carry the scar for the rest of his life. But the catalyst was not following the rules. Had he stayed in the car or with the car and flipped him off as he went by he wouldn’t have been in a position to be in harm’s way. Now it was a matter of monkey see and monkey do in my opinion. He saw NASCAR drivers do it on TV so he thought he could make a show and do it too. But these are very different cars with different response times. The car in front of Stewart, as a matter of fact several in front of Stewart, almost hit him and he still kept coming. Coach Bud Lathrop in my high school days would say, “You are Hell Bound you are going to lose this game.” This young man was “Hell Bound” to get to Stewart. Stewart did the only thing he could do when he did see him and he was by that time, reaching out towards the car. Stewart tried to avoid him quickly without flipping the car over on top of both of them. His hope was that he would jump back out of the way. He did not. Because of that a tragedy occurred. It was a tragedy that could have been avoided had he just stayed in the car or stayed with the car.

It was a tragic accident. When everything came together, none of the checks and balances to protect both of them was in place. Why? Because sadly fate made that determination that day. To call it anything but a tragic accident is irresponsible. To demand jail time, etc. is ridiculous. The only things that we can do are pray for the families of both drivers and pray for Tony Stewart. We have to find our comfort in Mr. God’s promise that nothing is arbitrary and he has a plan. Then we have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves if the shoe was on our foot how would we feel and how would we want people to treat us? That is the course we should then steer, not only off the track but on it as well. We should ask ourselves in our social media interactions, how would I feel if I knew the families of both drivers were going to see this? Steer the course that you would want to travel.

That’s it. I am tired. I haven’t been to bed yet. I haven’t eaten. My friend hurts. I hurt for him. Real journalists don’t decide right and wrong. They don’t pass judgment. They simply tell you what happened. I am disappointed in the media corps. of NASCAR. I am disappointed in a long time hero who is a Winston Cup champion but who has not driven dirt competitively in years and when he did it was in a late model stock car now classified as a street stock. I think it is very important for us all to remember that perspective is reality. The more ugly, hateful things that are said the more people believe them. Bottom line truth. Had the kid stayed in his car as the rule book mandated it wouldn’t have happened. It’s not appropriate to find fault with a dead man. But he sealed his own fate when he reached in the car that was still traveling 45 mph on dirt. Sadly, I can’t think of any situation that would be worth dying for because I couldn’t control myself. But then I am an old modified racer whose Daddy had some pretty strict rules. And I am old. Dirt rules are pretty simple really, even the unspoken ones. Take the fight to the pits. Don’t approach moving cars. Don’t cross the track while cars are moving. Those rules are why we throw red flags when cars overturn. It makes it safe for the safety crew to work and help that driver.



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