Superstar “NASCAR driver Tony Stewart hit and killed another driver who was walking on a track during a dirt-track race in upstate New York, authorities said early Sunday,” CNN reports.
The story reports: “Kevin Ward Jr., 20, died from injuries suffered in the incident, which occurred Saturday night at the Empire Super Sprints series event at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park.” Stewart, one of the sport’s biggest stars, is a three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and owns a multi-car team competing at the sport’s highest level.
Here is video of the incident. Warning: It is graphic and an obscenity is heard:
Writes Mike Harris in a commentary for Sports Illustrated: “Seeing a young man climb out of his car, knowing he was in the final minutes of his life, is disturbing. Seeing him tossed like a rag doll after the contact is nauseating.”
Harris adds, “Before anyone gets too carried away, let’s be clear there’s no way anyone should be thinking Stewart had it in mind to kill Ward or even injure him. No way, no how.
“But given his history and the way he has reacted to situations throughout his career, it is not at all unreasonable to wonder if he wasn’t thinking of scaring or intimidating Ward.”
Then Harris writes, “Bob Pockrass, the veteran and respected motorsports writer for The Sporting News, located a witness in the stands several hours before the video surfaced. The witness, a driver named Tyler Graves, described the scene as it unfolded in a way the video corroborated. Graves noted that when you hit the throttle in a sprint car, it ‘sets sideways.’
“Now listen to the video of the incident. Right before contact, an engine guns. Stewart’s? No way to be sure, but as Graves noted and the video shows, the car ‘set sideways’ and hit Ward.
“Graves doesn’t buy the notion that Stewart couldn’t see Ward. Despite the shaky quality of the lighting and the dark firesuit Ward was wearing, he’s clearly visible in the video and several cars went by him without incident.
“Why would you punch the throttle under caution? So many questions, so many answers that likely will never come.”
To read Harris’ full commentary, please click on the link to his Sports Illustrated piece above.
Even before this incident involving one of the true superstars of the sport, both TV ratings for NASCAR and attendance at NASCAR events have continued to drop this year.