Sunday, August 10, 2014

OMG! Athlete Ward Jr. Dead After Being Hit by Tony Stewart

Fans of auto racing often see the frequent dust-ups and altercations between drivers at all levels and forms of the sport. At the top levels of NASCAR I have always wondered and feared the day when a competitor crosses the line with catastrophic consequences.

On Saturday night we saw a horrific example of the worst that motorsports can bring, as NASCAR star Tony Stewart struck and killed another racer with his car as he walked on the track.

Stewart entered a Saturday night event at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Also in the field was a young driver named Kevin Ward Jr., who was just 20 years old. Stewart was the lone non-local driver in the event.

During the race Ward and the three-time NASCAR Cup champion got into an accident. Ward climbed out of his vehicle, approaching and gesturing towards Stewart’s during a subsequent caution lap.

According to eyewitness accounts (and a video of the incident Midwest Sports Fans has opted not to show) Stewart “gunned his motor” as he approached the defenseless young man. At this point Stewart’s car is said to have “fishtailed,” with the back end striking Ward, running over him with the back right tire, then sending him flying a significant distance.

The race was called and fans were asked to leave as a heavy police presence arrived. Early Sunday morning we finally got confirmation that Ward had died from the injuries he sustained as a result of the incident.

Stewart is scheduled to compete in the NASCAR Cup event at Watkins Glen International Speedway later Sunday.

Tony Stewart has a long history of losing his cool since arriving in NASCAR in 1999. During his rookie season, he confronted rival Kenny Irwin during a race in Martinsville, Virginia. Stewart is also well known for moonlighting on dirt tracks during the NASCAR campaign. His 2013 season ended after sustaining a serious leg fracture during a Monday night event in Iowa.

I do not see Stewart competing at Watkins Glen or being allowed in any sanctioned NASCAR event until his name is fully cleared. Police are investigating the incident and Stewart is being described as cooperative at this point, and he was officially questioned and released.

Whatever happened, you can be sure NASCAR and other racing organizations will now re-think the very culture of the sport to prevent another possible tragedy occurring anytime in the future and realize race cars are potential deadly weapons when used in anger. I fear we will be hearing about this in news cycles for quite some time.

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