FanDuel - WFBC

August 10, 2014

Tony Stewart Kills Driver in Dirt-Track Race: Nascar driver Tony Stewart struck and killed another racer who had exited his vehicle after a crash Saturday night during a dirt-track race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in Central Square, New York. Kevin Ward Jr. had gotten out of his car following a crash with Stewart and appeared to be yelling and pointing. A car swerved to miss him and Stewart's right rear tire struck Ward, who died en route to a hospital.

The disturbing video of the incident, which shows Ward being struck:


posted by rcade to auto racing at 09:39 AM - 22 comments

You can see Stewart's car fishtail and take a more direct route towards Ward than the previous driver did. It's tough at those speeds to know if it's intentional or not, or just the result of the previous corner.

On the surface, it looks like he throttled up, which given how long he's been driving for would not be a surprise that the car did what it did. It even looks a little like Ward is moving away from the car when he gets hit. But it's so quick it's tough to tell.

There's a lot going on here (i.e., Ward angrily wandering out into a tiny track and getting aggressive with a speeding vehicle), and the tape isn't great, but it kinda looks like Stewart might've done a couple of things to avoid this. I doubt he wanted to hit him, but a hot head leading to someone getting a little too close for comfort and it going awry? Not necessarily out of the question.

I really doubt unless an interview (or the Go Pro that's in all their cars) produces something really substantial that there will be criminal charges stemming from this, but man this just sucks.

posted by dfleming at 12:28 PM on August 10

It couldn't happen to a worse guy for the people who are going to want to believe it was intentional, though.

posted by Bonkers at 01:47 PM on August 10

It's like Tony Stewart killed his brother.

The fact that Kevin Ward was out of his car and relatively defenseless, and 20 years old, and Tony Stewart is both a legend, and a legendary hothead, obviously makes things a lot worse from a publicity standpoint and it will take some time to parse who is to blame for what happened.

It does matter if it's an accident or not, it does matter whether he lost his cool, but it also doesn't matter. He killed his brother.

I honestly can't believe Stewart almost raced today. I think NASCAR should and will suspend him pending a thorough investigation.

posted by phaedon at 01:55 PM on August 10

Also, think what would happen to NASCAR on the off chance Tony Stewart did something like this again. You don't just let a guy like this back on the track.

posted by phaedon at 02:09 PM on August 10

Huh. Seems to me there was a little extra throttle right before impact. And also a little fishtail. Could it be that Tony either A) didn't see Ward until it was too late, and tried to maneuver the car as best as he could to avoid the collision, or B) he saw Ward and tried to 'show-off' his driving skills and miscalculated?

All that said, Ward getting out of the car was a terrible idea and is a no-no for this very reason.

posted by BoKnows at 03:06 PM on August 10

Stewart is a hothead who was pissed this kid was calling him out. He tried to show him up with that dick move and killed the guy. I'm sure he didn't mean to hit him but he messed up big time. There was a caution out on the track and every other driver was slowly going past the wreck and the driver on the track. How horrible when a millionaire driver does this to a young dirt track driver. He needs to be banned from motor sports for life, charged, and sued for everything he has. His temper finally messed him up. How horrible for the people at this small track.

posted by dyams at 03:36 PM on August 10

dyams, if that's what happened, I agree completely, he should be held as accountable as possible.

The question that I keep trying to answer is: Why was he in this race at all? I'm not a NASCAR fan at all, so there may be a simple answer I'm just not aware of. But to an outsider it seems that he has no real need to prove himself on that track. Is this the equivalent of Kobe Bryant showing up at some streetball court just for shits?

posted by BoKnows at 05:12 PM on August 10

I really have no idea if Stewart was invited or what. I just don't think he has the ability to pull back on his competitive juices, regardless of who he's racing against. His punk move didn't work the way he planned and now he has to be accountable.

posted by dyams at 06:58 PM on August 10

There was a caution out on the track and every other driver was slowly going past the wreck and the driver on the track.

Stewart didn't seem to be going faster than anyone else in that video.

posted by Etrigan at 08:44 PM on August 10

I guess it's just ironic that the guy who put him into the wall happens to plow him over. Several other cars avoid him but the guy who this driver is pissed at happens to run him over? Not a chance. The most experienced driver on the track didn't comprehend the caution flag and slow enough to avoid killing a person? I'm not buying it. Stewart was pissed that some little prick was calling him out, wanted to show him up and fucked up.

posted by dyams at 09:26 PM on August 10

Several other cars avoid him but the guy who this driver is pissed at happens to run him over?

Or, from the other angle, this driver doesn't walk up on several other cars, because he isn't pissed at them.

The most experienced driver on the track didn't comprehend the caution flag and slow enough to avoid killing a person? I'm not buying it.

Again, he didn't seem to me to be moving any faster than anyone else.

posted by Etrigan at 10:09 PM on August 10

You seem to have made up your mind without much evidence.

posted by Ricardo at 10:32 PM on August 10

Yeah so I'm with dyams on this one. I am a big follower of Sprint car racing and even co-sponsor a car here in Tucson. Tony was in this race because Sprint car racing is his first love, and if he had his way and could make a living at it, would only race Sprint cars.

What he did was deliberate and calculated.

The laps previous to this, he and Ward were racing hard, and Tony drove him into the wall. To those that don't think Ward should have been out of the car, this is what they do in a caution. And they also call out the clown that put him in the wall. That's racing. Tony comes up, sees this kid calling him out, and tries to fishtail him.

Like dyams said, Stewart is a hothead who was pissed this kid was calling him out. He tried to show him up with that dick move and killed the guy.

IMHO, that's exactly what happened. It will haunt him for the rest of his life. I was a huge Smoke fan, but now hope he never wheels a car again.

posted by smithnyiu at 10:51 PM on August 10

Just an fyi, but the main link goes to a baseball game recap.

Watching this single video, while I'm not ready to convict in the court of a public opinion- much less a court of law- it looks to me like what happened was BoKnows B) conjecture: Stewart was pissed, and tried to show up the kid with a little rev and close shave... and miscalculated. It's unlikely to be a *complete* accident, since the other drivers were going slow and giving room what with the caution flag, and Stewart could easily, with his skills, given wide berth such that a collision was well-nigh impossible. Rather, this looks like if an Olympic-level sharpshooter decided to play William Tell with someone and oops, they just shot a person in the head. Or perhaps an apter comparison would be a pitcher throwing a brushback pitch at chin/head level, and that two inch difference from 60 feet away is the difference between "establishing the strike zone" and hospitalizing someone. Which is why headhunters get tossed pretty quickly if the ump thinks they were throwing the beanball on purpose. And why the original move- running him into the wall by squeezing him- seems a rough but fair approach, like a brushback pitch at the chest level... but not what happened next.

Being great at something doesn't mean you're infallible, so this looks like Stewart got cute in the heat of the moment- with fatal consequences. In that one second when he sees Ward approaching his car on what looks like the next lap, angrily pointing, I suspect Stewart (based on zero ironclad evidence whatsoever) thought to make the kid jump back and "know his place". And he was off... by just a few inches.

I hope plenty of other video surfaces so we can get other angles (or rather, that investigators can watch them since I certainly don't want or need to see more), but to my untrained eye it looks like he tried to scare him and with Ward in motion, the near-miss became a literally correct term.

Which lessens but doesn't not erase legal culpability; not murder, but some level of manslaughter.

It is entirely plausible that an exculpatory video emerges that shows us a clearer, unambiguous accident or even Ward walking *into* the straight line path of Stewart's car, while Stewart attempts to swerve away at the last second and thus, wholly accidentally, fishtails him. Barring that, I can't see how Stewart walks from this with no repercussions; at minimum I suspect a heavy civil suit will correct whatever the law fails to address.

posted by hincandenza at 01:46 AM on August 11

And minutes later, I've found this (certainly more informed than I) breakdown on reddit of why this is almost certainly a complete accident.

Granted, they use the same video that had me and most of us here convinced it was at least partially intentional, but they do explain the "rev" sound as likely unrelated and the conditions such that even an honest swerve could result in this outcome if Stewart didn't see him until the last second. So I'm glad I did express reservations about my own thiughts, and why a thorough and impartial investigation with more evidence is necessary and may fully exonerate Stewart. Plus, culture of the sport to point at the car or no, Ward should not have been walking into oncoming traffic and bears at least some responsibility in his own death.

http://www.reddit.com/r/videos/comments/2d4rh9/tony_stewart_hits_sprint_car_driver_kevin_ward_jr/cjm3ntc

posted by hincandenza at 02:00 AM on August 11

Clarifying my statements, I in no way believe Stewart meant to harm Ward and seriously doubt there could ever be criminal charges filed against him. Stewart, however, is the only one who knows why this may have happened. I fully expect him to say he didn't see Ward, and the driver's dark suit and helmet do nothing but strengthen that possibility. If true, what a disastrous coincidence.

I just don't know how a driver fishtails his car during a caution lap.

posted by dyams at 07:34 AM on August 11

I agree this was as far as I know a complete accident, but you can tell in the video that Stewart's line was too high, he was going too fast, and he saw Ward and revved it either to kick up dirt in Ward's face or create the illusion of coming really close to him without hitting him.

This is in no way a total indictment of Stewart, as Ward was out of his car.

posted by phaedon at 12:25 PM on August 11

To those that don't think Ward should have been out of the car, this is what they do in a caution. And they also call out the clown that put him in the wall. That's racing.

I think Ward should've stayed in the car. And now I think more drivers will choose to do just that. Fight in the pits, or the infield, or the trailer lot. Whatever. But fighting and/or posturing on the track during a race just sounds like a terrible idea overall.

Plus, culture of the sport to point at the car or no, Ward should not have been walking into oncoming traffic and bears at least some responsibility in his own death.

If it is in fact the culture, then it was only a matter of time before two egos caused an incident like this. Hopefully the governing body of the sport will change the 'culture', and make racing about racing, and not about getting out of your car and pointing/yelling at other drivers on the track.

posted by BoKnows at 01:43 PM on August 11

It's been many, many years since I've been to a sprint car race and I never much cared for them beyond the spectacle even then, but I do know that they are set up to go fast on slippery dirt and don't handle anything like normal cars so expectations about behavior based on your experience in a normal car don't really apply. You hit the gas to corner in them.

posted by feloniousmonk at 02:05 PM on August 11

As hincandenza said, if Stewart's mama owns a piano, Ward's family is gonna end up with it.

posted by beaverboard at 02:23 PM on August 11

Unless Tony Stewart decides to come completely clean and admit it was a purposeful act, the truth will remain unknown. Such an admission by Stewart is about as likely as my 2001 pickup truck winning a Sprint Cup race at Talladega. Regardless, whether or not Stewart bears any responsibility other than being a part of a tragic accident, his career in NASCAR will likely be threatened. His hot temper and impulsiveness will have to be completely cooled. The first time someone shunts him into the wall and he decides to try to duke it out in the pits will result in some pretty heavy suspension time and some pretty good dollars out of his wallet. It would not surprise me greatly if some other drivers put a target on Stewart's car, hoping not so much to wreck him but to anger him to the point that he attempts retaliation. From what I have seen of NASCAR, this sort of behavior is not outside the norm.

Fan reaction to Stewart will be a large part of where his career goes. Those who are his true fans will remain so, and excuse the incident as just a tragic accident that Tony didn't want to have happen. Those who dislike Stewart will be in full cry for his head on a stick. Those who are not passionate in one way or another will be the determinant. If the majority of them falls into the "he should have done better" camp, Stewart could be in for a hard ride. If it's the other way, then life will go on for Stewart, but he will still be carrying this every time he rolls onto a track.

posted by Howard_T at 04:40 PM on August 11

I'm not sure how this will play out in the media but apparently Stewart caused a 15-car pileup at Canandaigua just last year. Stewart took responsibility for going 3-wide and his car making contact with another and triggering the accident, leaving fellow racer Alysha Ruggles, a friend of Kevin Ward's, with a compression fracture in her back.

posted by phaedon at 12:38 AM on August 12

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