Tragedy struck the racing world on Saturday night, during a Sprint car race at the Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, as the car of famous race driver and NASCAR team co-owner Tony Stewart contacted another driver. The other driver was 20-year old Kevin Ward who appears to have exited his badly crashed vehicle with intentions of confronting Stewart about his driving style. Sadly, in an instant the young man was struck, thrown through the air and later expired as a result of injuries from the collision.
There are a million unknowns about this tragic event. We will ask ourselves why the young man exited his vehicle and strode through oncoming traffic and towards the speeding machine of Stewart. We will ask ourselves why Stewart never saw the young man until it was too late. We may even ask ourselves how a young man with such a zest for life can come to his untimely demise in such a brutal manner, despite the thousands of safety precautions taken by the respective racing associations.
What is known is that these racers feel an unseen bond to both the sport and one-another. Never doubt that Stewart would have done whatever was necessary to avoid this terrible catastrophe if it were at all possible. Never doubt that this was purely and tragically an accident. Never doubt that Tony Stewart and his representatives will reach out to the family of this young man, as they grieve their loss, in a gesture of healing. Never doubt that the racing community as a whole will embrace those involved in this terrible incident, their families, and their friends as brothers.
As Sunday evening fades into Monday morning, I realize that there will be those who will criticize the drivers, the cars, the sport, and the officials, but let us be careful in what spews from our mouths and flows from our pens. Take time to show some compassion for a family who lost a young son with a world of potential yet to be realized. There is little as tragic as unrealized potential. Let us show some sympathy for a young man who lost his life when totally immersed in the one activity that he loved the most. Let us not forget Kevin Ward and what he was preparing to become.
Let us have some compassion for a racer unfortunate enough to be on the other side of the equation from young Kevin. Tony Stewart, like Kevin Ward, was doing what he loved on Saturday night. With so many “irons in the fire” I seriously doubt that this Saturday night race in upstate New York was make it or break it for Stewart, yet he chose to race because he loved to race. He would have never dreamed that it would end this tragically. No matter how much that Stewart loved to race Outlaw Sprint Cars, he would have never been there if he had known the outcome.
One young man on the upswing of his racing career is suddenly cut-down by an inexplicable and tragic event. In the same event another man, a seasoned, successful, and proven veteran of many diverse types of racing could have his career forever tainted. Let’s be careful to respectfully remember the name of Kevin Ward and to remember that it doesn’t have to be done at the expense of Tony Stewart, who is not a perpetrator in this incident but a second victim.