Last Saturday night a terrible thing happened on a race track in upstate New York. A sprint car racer lost his life, but he didn’t lose it crashing into a wall or flipping end over end as many drivers have in the past. No, he lost his life after getting out of his wrecked car and attempting to confront the driver he deemed responsible for his early departure from the race.
Here is a video of the incident.
Let me say at the beginning that I am not a fan of racing. I don’t really know anything about it, so maybe I’m not the best person to comment on what happened in this situation but I have watched the video several times and these are my conclusions.
First, the initial contact that sent Ward into the wall and out of the race doesn’t appear to me to be Stewart’s fault. I don’t see any action on his part aside from rounding the curve and drifing a bit like every other racer. If he purposely bumped Ward I didn’t see it. It looks to me like Ward was trying to make up some ground that he lost when there really wasn’t any room to do so, and he ended up catching his front left wheel on Stewart’s car and spun out.
Second, Ward got out of his car in an obvious state of rage while cars were still circling the track. True, they weren’t going at race speeds but even 40 mph can be deadly as we unfortunately have seen. Ward wasn’t the first driver to do this, but he may very well have been the last one. Had he stayed in his car until the wreck crew arrived he would still be alive today. I don’t think anybody would dispute that point.
Having said all of that, when I first watched the video it did appear that Stewart’s car went to the right in order to hit Ward so I can understand why some people are so upset. The car before Stewart slowed down and moved to the left to avoid Ward, so I was wondering why Stewart didn’t do the same? However, I watched the video several times after that and froze the video in an attempt to go frame by frame to figure out what the heck happened. This was an amateur video and you can’t really see the impact that well, but it looks like Stewart’s car was trying to maneuver around Ward and only veered to the right after the right rear tire caught Ward.
Then I got an idea and went to YouTube to see if there was a slow motion video of the incident and lo and behold …..
If you watch the following video closely it appears that Ward had to step out of the way of the preceeding car, and then tried to step out of the way of Stewart’s car.
It then looks like he was actually trying to grab onto the right wing of the car and hang on. That is probably what caused the car to pull to the right. When he wasn’t able to hold on he went flying onto the dirt track practically head first. You have to wonder what was going through his head that brought him to do what he did?
As for Stewart not slowing down as much as the car ahead of him, he obviously slowed down some because of the caution flag. As you watch the video you’ll notice that different cars were going at different speeds, presumably based on what they were seeing as they passed Ward and his car. When Ward got out of his car he had to wait for several cars to pass before walking out on the track. He then waited for one last car to pass him so that he could confront Stewart. In other words, Stewart was behind another driver and may not have seen Ward until a second or two before “hitting” him.
If somebody walks down a railroad track and then jumps off right before the train gets there, and then attempts to jump on to the train only to lose their grip and fall to the ground below, would you blame the engineer or the person who tried to grab onto the train for their injuries or death?
Now, apparently Tony Stewart has a reputation for being a hothead, so I can understand why some people tend to suspect the worst here. Like I said before, I don’t know anything about racing and I never heard of Tony Stewart before this story. Stewart’s history will probably be something that is considered in the investigation.
The investigators are also reportedly looking at other photos and videos of the incident so we’ll have to wait and see if they disagree, but based on what I saw I don’t see how any objective person could say that this video incriminates Stewart in any way. If anything it reinforces the opinion that the majority of commenters have, that Ward brought this upon himself. It’s very sad and obviously devastating for his loved ones, but to ruin another man’s life because of the poor judgment of this young man is wrong IMO.