Barely two days removed from the tragic incident between NASCAR Sprint Cup star Tony Stewart and young Kevin Ward Jr., we're still far from certain of the particulars of the events that led to Ward's death. What is certain, though, is that the Internet's proselytizing of the incident has hit its stride.

It seems that on the one hand, we have those that urge caution in jumping to conclusions, like Steven Cole Smith, who wrote up the initial story of the incident for Motorsport.com and who has also penned a must-read follow-up missive on the incident and on Stewart as a man and racer. Both pieces are available at Car and Driver.

On the other, there's New York Times writer Juliet Macur, who looks to both Stewart's hot-headed nature and NASCAR's confrontational roots to speculate as to what could convince 20-year-old Ward to step out of his car on a hot track, at night, while wearing a black fire suit to try and confront the 43-year-old Stewart.

The sad truth of the matter is that we're not likely to ever know exactly what happened on Saturday night. We won't know what either driver was thinking, whether the Sprint Cup champ could see the young racer, clad in black, against the darkness of the dirt oval or whether the revving of the engine we hear in that seemingly damning video was a tragically timed attempt at intimidation or a last-ditch maneuver to swerve the car out of the way.

Head over to the NYT and Car and Driver to give both pieces a read.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 70 Comments
      marv.shocker
      • 4 Months Ago

      I watched the video and it is indeed inconclusive. I think it was a combination of Ward getting too close to passing traffic and Stewart buzzing him just to piss him off. The same thing happened with two friends of mine dirt bike riding…they both miscalculated, and one died. We can't ever forget that cars and motorcycles are machines that can kill if not treated with attention and respect.

        Zach
        • 4 Months Ago
        @marv.shocker

        I think your assessment is probably closest to the truth. It seems like Stewart has a temper; he's got some history of blowing up at other drivers. He might have been trying to "dust" the kid as he went by; he might be the only person who ever knows for sure. 

        It just seems all too likely that a little bit of temper could have caused this. Ward shouldn't have left his car, and if Stewart was trying to intimidate him, that's a horrible mistake to have on your conscience. 

        Pj Taintz
        • 4 Months Ago
        @marv.shocker

        i frankly think tony just didnt see him until it was too late, there was no good reason for tony to be upset to even feel the need to buzz him, tony didnt wreck, he kept going after the initial contact.


        the 2 cars in front had th swerve last second to miss him as well

        track conditions, plus hot heads, plus low visibility. thats what the problem was here. not to mention if the kid stayed in his car he would still be alive

      David
      • 4 Months Ago
      Whether Stewart hit him intentionally or not is widely up for debate, but there is no debating that Ward getting out of his car was ill-advised. 
      bc3091
      • 4 Months Ago
      Not trying to sound cruel, but Ward should never have gotten out of his car. Unless it was on fire, he was far safer in there than on the track. It is unfortunate that he lost his life, but he probably would still be alive had he stayed in his car.
        AzureStarline
        • 4 Months Ago
        @bc3091

        ^this

        Devonblue4u
        • 4 Months Ago
        @bc3091
        Death Highlights History of Confrontation for Racingby Juliet Macur

        "In 2012, during a Sprint Cup race in Bristol, Tenn., Stewart squeezed out of his crashed car to track down Matt Kenseth on foot, only to throw his helmet at Kenseth’s windshield as Kenseth’s car was zipping along. Maybe then Kenseth would think twice about going anywhere near Stewart’s bumpers during a race. Sure, that will teach him.

        So where did Ward get the idea that going after a driver in a car was a good idea? It’s no longer so hard to see where."

          Xedicon
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Devonblue4u

          Using someone else's poor behavior an as excuse for your own never excuses said poor behavior. Stewart was wrong for doing it then, and Ward was wrong for doing it now.

          Pj Taintz
          • 4 Months Ago
          @Devonblue4u

          not exactly the same thing

      xspeedy
      • 4 Months Ago

      Kevin was looking for trouble and found more than he wanted.

        Tiberius1701
        • 4 Months Ago
        @xspeedy

        Agreed. I see a backwater sprint car driver thinking he can garner himself some fame by engaging in fisticuffs with NASCAR's well known "bad boy".

        Sorry if that sounds brusque, but I call 'em as I see 'em.  


        It is a tragedy and my thoughts and prayers go to those he left behind.

      Timothy Tibbetts
      • 4 Months Ago

      Being the NY Times, you get the response you expect. You don't get out of your car. Period. Especially at night in a black suit. You open the window netting to let them know you're ok and you wait. Everyone I personally know think it's a tragedy that was easily avoided. Odds are he thought he was giving Tony Stewart a taste of his own medicine.

        RGT881
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Timothy Tibbetts

        Exactly, their lack of journalistic integrity notwithstanding following lackluster coverage of MH17, Syrian conflict and bank bailouts. Here writer obviously doesn't know racing. Tony revved the engine either to slide the understeering car away from Ward or to get quickly past him. Ward almost got himself trapped under 45 right rear and then obviously misjudged how close he was to 14 right rear. Track is wet, muddy, race suit and helmet are dark, the location is midcorner to exit, lighting is horrid, Tony is wearing tearoffs, it's hard to look to the right due to HANS and wrap around aluminum seat, drivers look to the left, not right, the rear tires weigh several hundred pounds, etc. Was any of this mentioned in NYT? I won't get annoyed with motoring enthusiasts who don't know motorsports, but the writer of NYT obviously showed bias and not even that as much as negligence to research this topic further. 

          Mark Axen
          • 4 Months Ago
          @RGT881

          Well said, Mr. Tibbetts.  Consider also the direct-drive set-up on these cars, and that much of the steering is done with the throttle. I, too, find it astounding that so many think Stewart  tried to hit Ward.  Read Steven Cole Smith's article at Car & Driver for the better story.

      Plan B
      • 4 Months Ago
      I think it was a just bad decisions by both individuals. That kid chose to do something very stupid in getting out of his car and walking out INTO oncoming cars - and I think Tony was possibly trying to dust him or scare him at worst - and both misjudged how close they got to each other. And between those two very idiotic moves this kid lost his life. I don't think Tony will be charged, just not enough concrete evidence to prove beyond a shadow of doubt he tried to kill him. But he will have to live with this nightmare, publicly and privately, for the rest of his life.
      amge5.5
      • 4 Months Ago

      Like most situations this is complicated and both sides carry blame.  Kevin should never have left his car and Tony should never have tried to buzz him.  I don't buy the "couldn't see him" argument because these guys race inches from each other at full speed and can even see and avoid debris on the track so he damn sure could see him.  

      The real problem is the culture Nascar has created in the racing industry.  You will see big time crack down on all the out of vehicle bs that has been going on in Nascar because they are the role models for young kids like the one who lost his life.  Just as pro baseball players are role models for young people so they are not allowed to use steroids, the role models have a responsibility to set the standard and NASCAR along with professional racers have failed horribly.  Nascar let the publicity all the fighting and on track confrontations get in front of their responsibility to punish those drivers in a harsh enough way to curb this kind of behavior.  

      BipDBo
      • 4 Months Ago

      If you want to try to speculate Stewart's intent based on this long distance, low res video, it's pretty futile.  If you are going to anyway, look at this slow motion version.
      Slow mo youtube video

      With this one video, you really can't know if Stewart accidentally hit Ward, attempted to buzz him on purpose but miscalculated, or simply, in anger, plowed over him on purpose.  You just can't see the path he traveled before impact because it's out of frame.  A few things I do see:

      • There looks to be plenty of light on that side of the track and plenty of reflectors on Ward's suit for him to be seen.
      • This I did not see, and just seemed speculation until I saw it in Slow mo: Stewart's car was indeed sliding slideways the moment befor impact.  Car #45 did not slide sideways as he passed Ward. 
      • It looks like Stewart's wheels are spinning, not locked up as he is sliding sideways into Ward. I cannot tell for sure due to low resolution.
      • Stewart corrects his slide just during impact. Obviously, you cannot correct a slide while wheels are locked, but his car could have been turned back to straight course by the impact with Ward's body.

      One thing is for sure. Whatever occurred in Stewart's brain was not premeditated, but rather a split second, instinctual reaction of a very seasoned driver. That begs the question, why was the NASCAR veteran Stewart going sideways past the crash location while under yellow flag?  Was he gunning it to teach Ward a lesson and miscalculated? Did he panic like a teen driver and slam on the brakes?  Was he just driving sideways, recklessly toward the area, unable to see that Ward was on foot, until the last second after Ward had emerges out from behind car #45?  I think only a video from a different angle could answer that question.  Hopefully, authorities have such a video.

        ThinkAboutIt
        • 4 Months Ago
        @BipDBo

        This is informed speculation on my part, as an ex-oval track racer who's a lot more comfortable on asphalt than dirt. But speculation nonetheless, so take it for as much or as little as it's worth.

        I don't believe Stewart was intending to hit Ward. But I do believe that he had every intention of buzzing him. He was slowed down for the yellow, then hit the gas and spun his tires to give Ward a dusting. It's a common FU move on dirt, just as road racers like to clip curbs and toss rocks at close pursuers to rattle them in slice 'n' dice racing. 

        The problem is, dirt isn't consistent like asphalt. Over the course of a race ruts form which capture wheels, and make the car jump slightly when a driver tries to fight out of them. The track that (may have been) carefully wetted and conditioned before the start of a race will dry and chunk unevenly during it. It's only the slightest of exaggerations to say that a corner will drive differently each time you go into it.

        Even in the best of conditions, dirt drivers don't corner so much as they set a trajectory. At speed, you literally break the car loose and then "steer" with the throttle, so the correct way to set up the car is to make it unstable. As a driver you then "catch it" and set your course around the corner.

        You quickly get good at it, and the best are truly great at it. But NOBODY knows exactly where the car is going to go when they hit it, every time. At racing speeds you can throttle the car to adjust the trajectory, but nailing the gas on dirt at slow speeds makes the car jump. It's designed to.

        Stewart knew that, and expected it. He just didn't expect it to jump That Much. If you take a close look at the videos -- and if you don't want to, I understand and you can take my word for it -- you'll see Stewart's car veer to the right immediately before and after he hit Ward. That wasn't Stewart aiming at Ward; that was him trying to correct the car after it unexpectedly stepped out on him.

        So was it a dick move? Sure, but one that is done by dirt drivers at tracks all over the country on a weekly basis. Did he intentionally try to hurt Ward? I'm pretty confident in saying no, beyond the sting of pelting him with a few clumps of dirt. It's not murder, but depending on the conscientiousness/zealousness of a county prosecutor, it could be argued that it's criminally negligent. And I can assure you that Tony Stewart isn't the only racer haunted by a common racing intimidation tactic gone horribly wrong.

        I've also been roughly in Ward's position. Early in my racing experience I got my sportsman car stuffed in a wall by a competitor. As officials were walking me down from my crumpled car during the caution, he came by and pointed at me to let me know he meant it. Reflexively, I took two steps toward his car and stuffed my Bell Star into his safety-glass windshield. Luckily, the only consequence I had from that move was a month's suspension from the track. I've been thinking about that move too.



          BipDBo
          • 4 Months Ago
          @ThinkAboutIt

          I completely agree with your analysis.  #45 went slowly around ward, in static traction, not sliding at all.  Stewart was definitely sliding, as you would be in racing, but not as you'd be expected to be doing under yellow past the crash area.  It does look like Stewart, as you suggest was intentionally dusting Ward.  Doing that to another racer while he is in his car, or even on foot 25 feet away would be a dick move.  Doing so while the other driver is on foot, within arms reach, in my opinion, is criminally reckless.  Assuming you are correct, I think that a criminal prosecutor, could make a strong case for vehicular homicide.  A prosecutor could make a stronger case if armed with a better video.

        1454
        • 4 Months Ago
        @BipDBo

        He could have been doing it just to spray him, but the kid kept coming at the car. He couldn't have anticipated what some idiotic, irate kid was going to do. Honestly, I don't think anyone can think he, or any other driver, would intentionally take another person's life. Even if it was a miscalculation, which from my perspective of the video I think there is reasonable doubt, it was on both the part of man and child. So if anything let Tony live his life knowing that he just took the life of another individual. That will probably be all the punishment he needs. Not to mention, I'm almost certain his business dealings will be impacted by this.  

          BipDBo
          • 4 Months Ago
          @1454

          I agree that it looks to me like an intentional, failed "spraying".  If it's true that it was an intentional "spraying", rather than an accident with an unexpected pedestrian that he simply was unable to avoid, that could carry much greater legal consequences from criminal court, civil court, and racing bodies like NASCAR. If authorities have a better video which shows Stewart intentionally charging or attempting to spray Ward, then Stewart could be charged with criminal vehicular homicide.  With a lesser burden of proof, he could be penalized or banned professionally.
          But like I said, this video is really insufficient to make the judgment with confidence.

          Zach
          • 4 Months Ago
          @1454

          I read somewhere that in some cases you race to the yellow, meaning you can still pass until you hit the flag (not sure on the rules). So he might just have been racing, and he might not even have known there was a wreck. I'm trying to be very fair and give him the benefit of the doubt, I guess, but I think it's likely he did see and possible he was trying to intimidate this kid. 

          1454
          • 4 Months Ago
          @1454

          Zach, thanks for being fair and rational in your response. Even if they could have raced back to the flag, they had already passed the flagstand. That being said, I'm still not certain Tony was trying to spray him. I'm just saying it is a possibility. The only person who knows what was going through Tony's head is Tony. There are far to many factors here for anyone to claim a smoking gun on any particular circumstance. Period. Anyone who claims to know is a lair and an idiot. (Like tariff the imports below) 


          I hope he didn't attempt to do that, but even if it did, it was an accidental miscalculation that caused the incident, and had the kid controlled his temper then there would have never been an incident. Just how I see it, and the reason I don't believe any charges should even be filed. It's a sad situation, it truly is. However, the kid holds just as much blame, or more, than Tony ever could. I say this as a person that doesn't watch NASCAR, but does enjoy racing. 

      E85 450HP Forester
      • 4 Months Ago

      Yellow flag, every single driver slowed down and avoided the deceased, not Stewart.  I still feel sorry for Stewart, he was impaired by emotion and adrenaline, he just wanted to school the youngster but got more that he bargained for.  

      dude
      • 4 Months Ago

      regardless of what happens if someone is out of their car you never drive near them. Its a damn shame Tony who is a PROFESSIONAL driver even entertained the idea of trying to scare this kid by driving a race car near him, he should of stopped or gone around. Sure the kid was a moron but Tony should of known better than needs to be punished

        SloopJohnB
        • 4 Months Ago
        @dude

        What part of nighttime, dark suit, dark helmet, don't you understand?  You cannot know he was trying to scare the kid...

          James
          • 4 Months Ago
          @SloopJohnB

          hope this gets a do not get out of car unless on fire, 1 year no racing

          second time you are done racing

      smkstuff
      • 4 Months Ago

      A professional driver of Stuarts caliper should have been driving much slower and much further down on the inside of the track. Stuart also never slowed after the impact with the young driver. I believe Mr. Stuart should be charged criminally for this. I'm not saying he is guilty but he should have to stand trial for this.   

        SloopJohnB
        • 4 Months Ago
        @smkstuff

        Once again, the only objective viewpoint is the video.  Hothead or not, people are not prosecuted for accidents.  Especially when the victim is hotheaded enough to jump into traffic!

        superlightv12
        • 4 Months Ago
        @smkstuff

        I totally agree. Tony is known as a hot head. People like him react emotionally when there is trouble. Why was he still flying under a yellow flag when nobody else was? Because he was angry. He let his anger boil over and he either intended to run the kid down or attempted to scare him. Either way, someone is dead and he needs to be held accountable for it.

          SloopJohnB
          • 4 Months Ago
          @superlightv12

          Flying?  My azz.  He was keeping his position which is all a yellow flag is.

          purrpullberra
          • 4 Months Ago
          @superlightv12

          The only one who deserves punishment is dead.

      Really
      • 4 Months Ago
      Ward should have stayed in his car. That being said a seasoned pro like Stewart should have been way further inside. It clear to me in the slow-mo that Ward makes an attempt to move away from Stewarts car but since Stewart is moving to fast and in a trajectory moving to the outside of the track he was still hit. 
      Two wrongs don't make a right but Stewart is wrong here, does it constitute manslaughter that's a tough question with significantly more video being available that shows you drivers inputs and wheel reactions.
      Still very bad for Mr. Stewart none the less, very unprofessional for a driver of his experience and caliber!
        SloopJohnB
        • 4 Months Ago
        @Really

        Stewart did nothing wrong…his vision was obscured by the car in front…unless you're a pro dirt track racer you have no idea of what's going on here.  

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