Tragedy struck the racetrack on Saturday night, as 20-year-old driver Kevin Ward, Jr. was struck and killed by NASCAR driver Tony Stewart on the dirt track of Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York. Ward was hit by Stewart’s sprint car after he exited his own vehicle and was walked along the course. The driver was apparently trying to confront Stewart – who had side swiped Ward’s car, causing him to spin out, during the 13th lap of the 25-lap race.
Video of the crash has emerged on YouTube and social media from fans who were at the racetrack. You can watch the incident unfold below (Warning: Graphic content and strong language warning):
According to law enforcement, Stewart has fully cooperated with the investigation thus far, and no criminal charges have been filed. In the aftermath of the fatal accident, Stewart withdrew from Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen.
On radio this morning, Glenn spoke to listeners who are familiar with race car driving and explained why he is concerned for Stewart’s wellbeing.
There have been conflicting reports in the aftermath of the accident over whether Stewart’s actions in the lead up to the crash show any sort of intent. Several racing experts called in to discuss why the tragedy was likely an accident.
Teddy in Tampa explained that because of the way racecars are designed, Stewart reacted in the only way he could.
“Just wanted to call in and give you an idea how the cars work. I have never been a fan of Tony Stewart, but a round track car, they like to turn left. When they are under power, they turn left – especially a dirt sprint car… that's all their designed to do. They don't go straight very well either,” Teddy explained. “So when you look at the video, you can hear Tony goose the throttle, which at would have made the car lunge to the left. Then after, you could see the see the car jerk back to the right.”
In other words, Teddy believes Stewart saw Ward at the last minute and was attempting to get out of the way.
“I think Tony gunned it to make the car go left to swerve around him,” Teddy said. “And that's why, after he hits, you can see the car turn back to the right, like he's trying to recover.”
Mike from North Carolina corroborated Teddy’s analysis, and he also mentioned how difficult it is for drivers to see what is going on around them because of the safety constraints in the car.
"The gentleman that just got off the phone there is correct. Those cars are… designed to go left. And when you're at low speeds like that, they are very difficult to drive,” Mike said. “I have been in those cars, and your peripheral vision is basically zero. There's head and neck restraints – everything that you have going on, the visor to keep the dirt out of your eyes, all that limits your vision tremendously.”
“Tony probably didn’t see him until the last second, hit the throttle to try to get it to go left, and it just resulted in a tremendous, tremendous accident,” he continued. “But I do not believe that Tony did anything intentionally.”
With those clarifications in mind, Glenn spoke more to how drastically Stewart’s life will change in the aftermath of this tragedy.
“So here's the thing. I think that Tony Stewart's life is hanging in the balance today. They aren't going to press charges, but think about what this guy is going to have to face for the rest of his life,” Glenn concluded. “I mean, this could pull him apart… He should absolutely get back in the car… If he allows this to take him out of what he loves to do, he's done… Have some compassion for the man.”
Front page image courtesy of the AP