Monday, August 11, 2014

A Terrible Tragedy

I keep replaying the Tony Stewart Kevin Ward Jr accident in my head. I have watched the only video several times trying to put pieces together and make sense of this tragic accident.

It started off as a simply racing accident. Tony was on the inside and Kevin was on the outside as they came down the front stretch and went through turns 1 and two. As they exited the turn it is clear they are running out of real estate and Stewart is clearly ahead of Ward. What happened next is up to the interpretation of those who saw the accident as it happened and those who have watched it on video.

Most of the comments I have read mentioned there being contact between the two and that being the cause of Kevin Ward Jr wrecking. I disagree. From what I see, as these two race through turns 1 and 2 there is also a third car in front of both of them running on the bottom of turn 1. It looks to me like Stewart and Ward are catching this other driver keeping Tony running the middle and Kevin up top. What is not shown is what this other car did as it exited off turn 1. Did the driver stay down low or did he slide up the track a bit forcing Stewart to run his current line? Kevin Ward Jr had no way of seeing what this car did and I do not know if he expected Tony to slide down the track or what. Anyways, as Stewart and Ward exited turn two, it looks to my like the right rear tire of Ward's race car hit the outside barrier causing him to spin twice and flattening his right rear tire. I do, however, see where the argument could be made that the two cars did make contact which caused the accident.

Following this, as the race was yellow flagged, Ward got out of his race car and in his black helmet and black with white side stripes fire-suit he started walking down the track waving wildly at Stewart. He was almost hit by another car that was approximately 1 second in front of Stewart. There is a very good probability that Tony did not see Kevin there on the track. We also don't know if Kevin slipped into Tony's right rear tire as the track was clearly slick.

People comment about Tony hitting the accelerator as he got by Kevin. Having been around racing since the late 1970's and around sprint cars and dirt track racing since the mid 1980's I can state clearly that this is common practice. This is usually done to get caught up to the rest of the field. Not to go race speed as they are under a yellow flag, but a little faster to get caught up. Also, as Tony hits the gas his car slid a little to the left, not to the right as many claim, and that could be because Kevin Ward was falling and as Tony hit him the bump of a human body would have cause the sprint car of Tony Stewart to slide left. Sadly, this did cause Kevin Ward to be thrown several yards and it does appear he was briefly wrapped around Stewart's right rear tire.

The above picture is Tony Stewart's sprint car from last year. You will notice there are no rear view mirrors of any kind on this car. Also, unlike NASCAR, sprint car drivers do not have spotters, thus Tony had no way of knowing where Kevin was on the race track. Also, notice the right wing. You would be amazed at what all that wing will block out. Let's look at it on another sprint car.

Did you notice how low the wing is and how large the nerf bar is also notice where the drivers blind spot would be if some one was running up to you from the right side from the front in pic 1. Pic #2 we see driver in car WITHOUT helmet or neck gear on so he has more of a view now lets put on all gear and imagine how much you would see then.Pic 3 do you really think you could see someone running at you from this angle? 

"I have driven these cars,the right side board on the top wing will block out an entire car let alone a person standing there,i now work on the 45 car in the video and the driver said he just saw him at the last second and just missed him,Tony had even less time to react to the situation.people in the stands or watching this video have no idea how fast these thing happen and how limited our view is inside the was a very bad turn of events that happened but we all know the dangers involved in the sport we love." ~Mark Tychoniewicz

The following, in closing, are some facts by driver Shawn Peterson:

NEVER get out of the car, especially on a race track.

Tony did not spin Ward out, sprint cars do not have mirrors, but they do have brakes & Ward should have used his. There was no way for Tony to see Ward behind him. Ward didn't want to get passed & was showing off for a celebrity, he simply tried to force the spot. 

After that attempt didn't work out, he then attempted to showboat on the track acting like a victim & it cost his life. Mad or not, right or wrong, you don't get out of your car without safety officials, you don't walk onto an active race track & you absolutely never approach a moving race car, especially with full knowledge that it has a very limited ability to swerve or stop.

These cars are built to drive very fast in a circle, they are not built to dodge angry people or to stop quickly.

Further, visibility is limited, Ward knew this & he chose, in anger, to put himself in harms way.

Tony did nothing in my opinion to attempt to hit him, frankly, he may not have seen him or assumed he would be smart enough to know the limitations of the race car, (after all, he was a driver).

In the car, we have no transmission, no clutch & for safety reasons, are only permitted to stop on a red flag, (this track was yellow).

In summary, this is an awful & tragic event, but in the end, I believe Tony did what any other driver would have done & did nothing malicious in any way. 

This is getting blown out of control because Americans & the press alike thrive on drama, especially when a celebrity is involved.
Again, unlawfully punishing Tony will not make America better, but hard work & LESS DRAMA go a long way.