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What’s next for Tony Stewart, the person?

Aug 11, 2014, 9:27 AM EDT

Coke Zero 400 - Qualifying Getty Images

Tony Stewart‘s personal future is a serious question mark after the accident Saturday night where driver Kevin Ward Jr. was killed at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park.

His livelihood outside of his usual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series commitments is at stake, because he’s been through a seriously rough stretch of accidents over the last year and a half in dirt track races.

Prior to Saturday night, there’s been a rash of accidents that have swept over Stewart like a tidal wave in the last year and a half.

Last year, he was in a 15-car pileup in New York, flipped his car in Canada and then broke his leg in Iowa, the latter of which sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

And then here’s what happened on Saturday night: Stewart and Ward were racing for position, and as Stewart’s car slid up the road, that contacted Ward and sent the young 20-year-old driver into a spin.

Ward got out of his car, walked down a hot track, and then was contacted by Stewart as he came around the corner on a dimly lit track. The fact the track wasn’t well lit, Ward was in a dark firesuit and dark helmet, and vision out the right side of sprint cars is notoriously bad (limited visibility) all conspired to create a perfect storm of circumstances and ultimately, cost Ward his life.

Stewart has cooperated with law authorities to this point as the Ontario County Sheriff’s Department continues its investigation; the Sheriff said Sunday there was no criminal intent at this time.

Stewart has released a statement, pulled out of driving in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen, and drivers have reacted, including fellow Cup champion Dale Jarrett, now a TV analyst for ESPN.

While the legal investigation is still ongoing (here is a link to the court case), how Stewart recovers from this personally will be interesting to witness.

Others (USA Today/NBCSN’s Nate RyanAP’s Jenna FryerSporting News’ Bob Pockrass, veteran Monte Dutton to name but a few) have also noted this, but Stewart and dirt track racing are blood brothers. It’s in his DNA, and it’s something you can’t take out of him, no matter how many times he gets into an accident.

Without a family of his own, Stewart’s passion, hobby and life outside the Cup circuit is, well, the dirt tracks. From those I spoke to over the weekend with knowledge of how Stewart operates, this fuels him and makes him tick.

He derives great enjoyment from these races – it fuels his fire even if it’s coming as a moonlighting guest driver.

His presence can sell more tickets. Local short track races are generally exciting as they are and when a megastar of Stewart’s magnitude joins the show, that only enhances the fan experience.

But the fan experience has been affected as a result of what happened Saturday night. Those who drove in that race, watched from the pits or watched from the stands will have a tough time getting over what they saw.

So too has Stewart, who despite his gruff temperament and legendary temper, still has a big heart – something that’s being written a lot now in the wake of this tragedy – but those who know him know this could not have been done with ill intent.

As it is, Stewart will likely have a long road to recover mentally from what’s happened this weekend.

  1. florsht - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    It’s time Stewart grew up and found a life. His destructive teenage behavior on dirt tracks is a menace to the sport and those in it. Go fishing (use a row boat).

  2. etrevinoe2 - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    You can hear on the video where he accelerates his car to drift and hit him with the back tire but did more than that. This can not be tolerated when someone losses hie tempere and kills someone as a result of stupidity.
    He is in a yellow flag is coming at a slow pace and just as he gets to the right point , he accelerates to drift the car, also you can see how the walking driver tries to jump out of the way but it is imposible the drift is too quickly and even the car bounces back the opposite way after hitting and going over the driver.

    I do not know if there is another way to interpreter this. Is there? The facts are on the table and are clear.
    Are you going to forgive this guy because he sells a lot of t-shirts ? This is not the first time and Nascar let him
    there because it brings audience. True but sad , isn it ?

    I also understand there is the first rule of boxing that apply to all sports “Protect yourself at all times” to easy to understand to hard to follow. And the decease pilot went to the edge, yes the edge but the one who cross it was Stewart.

    • indycarseries500 - Aug 11, 2014 at 12:15 PM

      Assuming he did gun the throttle, which again there is no evidence that he did, that is how you turn a sprint car in a hurry to avoid an obstacle, unfortunately this obstacle was moving towards him.

      • rickditka - Aug 11, 2014 at 2:06 PM

        I keep hearing that excuse. The “you don’t know racing” excuse. I guess youre scum too.

      • stephenwh - Aug 11, 2014 at 2:11 PM

        You live in some kind of La La Land if you think there is no evidence that he gunned the throttle…if it wasn’t him them somebody else did just as Tony hit the kid. You see this is what happens when you have a reputation that includes “gruff temperament and legendary temper”… We all know nothing will come of this; but to state that there is no evidence is both ridiculous and disingenuous…this is simply a case of his reputation and his past behavior now coming into play when looking at this accident…and that is all on Tony Stewart and no one else…

  3. fujis123 - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Thank goodness for experts like those above. Hey! Ontario County these guys have it all figured out. The case can be closed now.

  4. Tony DiZinno - Aug 11, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    Respectfully, etrevinoe2, while readers can choose to view the video on YouTube if they so desire, we’d prefer it not appear in the comments section here given its sensitivity and out of respect for the situation. Thank you for understanding.

    Thank you for reading.


  5. barrett27 - Aug 11, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    etrevinoe2, when you are on a slick dirt track, to change the direction of the car you mash on the gas to redirect. One of the side effects to this is the back end can slide out. To suggest he hit him on purpose is downright ignorant, these drivers are told NOT to get out of the car and he was in a dark suit on a dark track approaching a car when the yellow had JUST come out. If you’ve never been in one of those cars at night like that, you have no idea what it’s like. It’s much harder to see on the track than in the stands.

  6. charger383 - Aug 11, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    stuff like this is why most of the big boys do not race at local tracks.

  7. piscataquis007 - Aug 11, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    I’m curious why I’m not hearing anyone talking about the fact that Kevin Ward decided he was going to “teach some a lesson” by wandering around on an active speedway, waiting to see Stewart’s car so he could shake his fist at thim.
    I think we all agree that this event is nothing short of tragic, but the entire focus (that I’ve seen) has been on Tony Stewart. Don’t get me wrong, I think Stewart is a douche, but doesn’t some of the owness need to rest with Ward here? He didn’t appear to make any attempt to leave the track after crash, he was soley focused on making a spectacle of his anger with Stewart.

    • stephenwh - Aug 11, 2014 at 2:30 PM

      Yes the kid was 100% at fault for being on the track, but I think it is also fair to want an explanation from Tony which we don’t have yet…if he gunned the throttle to try to miss the kid, if he even saw him at all, etc. Without Tony actually addressing what happened, what he saw, and what he did, the video does in fact cast suspicion, especially with this particular driver who has a reputation for a bad temper…that does not excuse the kids behavior or even try to set the blame on Tony, but I believe he does have some explaining to do still…

  8. techmeister1 - Aug 11, 2014 at 1:02 PM

    Unfortunately Kevin was his own worst enemy in this tragedy. You never get out of a race car until told to do so by the officials unless it’s on fire. And you don’t go walking across the track to shake your hand at the driver who spun you in a normal dirt track racing situation. The combination of poor lighting, his black fire suit and him walking towards Stewarts car while they cars circled the track are the primary factors resulting in this tragic accident. Had Kevin stayed in the car he’d be alive today.

    BTW, I am not and have never been a Tony Stewart fan, but I do not believe this tragic accident was his fault nor intentional. Kevin’s friend and a fellow driver who was behind Stewart and saw what happened said that he did not believe Stewart was at fault. That’s from an eye witness and close friend of Kevin’s. This was a preventable tragedy that resulted from emotion and it’s very sad.

  9. barrylibby - Aug 11, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    The tragedy of it speaks for itself.

    However, just how far we have gotten from the days of drivers that used to do as TS does ,RACE.
    How many heroes of Indy 500 did just what TS does on dirt tracks before and after.
    Yet now we watch Nascar races wanting racing by a bunch of personalities, that if all 43 drivers were lined up in
    civilian clothes , excepting Patrick and may 5 to 10 others ,wouldn’t be recognized by most looking at them.

    In so many ways we have neutered he drivers along with the sport !

  10. 1pwrightt - Aug 11, 2014 at 1:59 PM

    I don’t think Stewart meant to harm Kevin Ward, much less kill him. However I do think Stewart was going scare him and get his car close to him and it backfired tragically. So there has to be consequences for Tony.

    • stephenwh - Aug 11, 2014 at 2:35 PM

      Sorry but all Tony has to do is say that he didn’t see Kevin. The only way we will ever know if there was any kind of “I was trying to scare him” behavior going on, would be if Tony admits there was, and I am sure by now he has been given legal advice to not comment on it at all. That is probably where it will end.

      • worknman24hours - Aug 11, 2014 at 6:30 PM

        Well said.

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