|Kevin Ward signs a checkered flag for a very young fan. Photo: Kevin Ward Racing|
It could haven't happened to a nicer guy and involved a more controversial guy, Kevin Ward, Jr. Killed was by NASCAR's Tony Stewart during a 25 lap race on the hard mud of upstate New York.
The fall out is a sponsor's and NASCAR's worst nightmare. Intentional or not Stewart's racing days may be over. Sadly for Stewart in a split second he added his name to a long list of those found guilty of murder even though not convicted. Names like George Zimmerman, Casey Anthony and O. J. Simpson. The Twittervese was quick to declare Stewart guilty and rightfully so, the video shows an agitated Ward standing in the groove and Stewart apparently sending his car's rear end towards Ward.
The aftermath has fans screaming in horror and the guy with the camera saying I can't believe (expletive) Tony Stewart just hit that guy. The video image of Kevin Ward laying motionless on the dirt track has been viewed by millions.
“I know Tony could see him,” Graves said. “I know how you can see out of these cars. When Tony got close to him, he hit the throttle. When you hit a throttle on a sprint car, the car sets sideways. It set sideways, the right rear tire hit Kevin, Kevin was sucked underneath and was stuck under it for a second or two, and then it threw him about 50 yards.”
The video shows Tony Stewart car's kicking to the right as he reaches Ward and you can hear an engine rev up at the same time. Which has created two camps, those who are certain that Stewart was only trying to avoid Ward and blaming Ward for getting out of his car and those who think Stewart was trying to "dust" the driver.
Many have noted Ward's black fire suit which could have played at part in the accident. But the track website claims that the track is fully lighted so that "none of the action is missed".
From the video and audio CP is going with the latter. It clearly looks like Tony "The Terminator" Stewart kicked his car to the right trying to toss a little dirt in the face of Kevin Ward.
Still many say they couldn't imagine Stewart intentionally hitting another driver outside of his car regardless of the confrontation. Again CP doesn't think it was intentional, in fact he was most likely having a good time, laughing at Ward. Just having a little fun.
But Stewart's words have come back to bite him in the ass:
Stewart was still angry after the famous helmet throwing incident two years ago at Bristol and is quoted as saying, "I checked up twice not to run over him. (Matt Kennseth) And I learned my lesson there, and I'm going to run over him every chance I got until the end of the year. Every chance I got."
Of course Stewart was taking about running over Kennseth while the driver was still in the car, not mowing him down on pit row.
Ward had been enduring a weeks long run of "bad luck" and near firsts but hadn't been able to close out a win. This frustration may had led Ward to exit his car and confront Stewart. But drivers, fans and officials say drivers going after other drivers on the track is not unusual.
Tony Stewart's career as a NASCAR Star is over. There is no sponsor who can afford to be associated with a driver known as "Tony the Terminator".
Regardless of guilt or lack of intent, the fact is someone died and someone should go to jail. There is no free pass by saying "Well, that's racin".
Then there are those who will say it was an accident, but this was no accident it was the consequence of a pattern of behavior Tony Stewart is associated with.
Before I become a target for any more flaming arrows from friends like Charlotte's Logan Stewart who in many words told me I was wrong in tweeting that Tony had deliberately run Kevin Ward down.
(I like Logan and she's right and I was wrong. Minutes after the video was first posted I tweeted that Tony Stewart had "deliberately ran over Kevin Ward" Of course at that time I assumed that Kevin Ward was alive and would return to race another day. Now having watched the video a dozen times, and hearing eyewitness accounts its clear that Stewart's intent was not to run over Kevin Ward.)
Let me say I don't have a favorite driver, though Sterling Marlin, Dale Jr, Jimmy Johnson and Danica I tend to follow. I also owe a slight allegiance to the 24 car team thanks to a business relationship. And then there is the history with Morgan - McClure and Ernie Irvan and the No. 4 car but that's another story from way back.
I don't hate Tony Stewart, in fact I think he's a darn good driver. Or at least was.
At this point I would hope that Stewart comes forward to tell the truth and explain what he did, it won't save his career but it will save his soul.