The following came from a friend who is a sprint car fan-the type of car Tony Stewart was driving when the fatal incident occurred. The information provided is something I wish that media outlets would add to their efforts to sensationalize what happened, as it does provide important information. From Palmer:
“Since the majority of your readers are fender fans and may not fully understand what visibility a driver may have in a sprint car, please be advised sprint cars have a window of about 12 inches they can see out the front of their car. The wing obstructs vision, especially the front right of the car. Given the fact the driver killed was in a black fire suit and black helmet on a poorly lit track, I think it would be entirely possible for a sprint driver to not see someone approaching their car. Additionally, contrary to what has been stated on ESPN, sprint cars do not have spotters and there is no way a driver could be advised of an approaching driver on foot. They do have Raceceivers advising of yellow and red lights and starting positions and that is about it. Given Stewart was ahead of the Ward car at the time of the yellow flag, and because sprints have no mirrors and poor right side visibility, it's entirely possible Stewart would have not known Ward had brought out the yellow flag and furthermore, I doubt Stewart would have been upset about anything and his supposed temper would have not been an issue. Based on the size of the track and the rear gear installed, sprints will idle from 35 to 45 mph around the track. In other words, if you were driving down Dodge Street in Omaha, it is dark out and someone in dark clothes jumps out at you, you would have very little time to react. The bottom line is it's very unfortunate this death occurred. It pains me to admit, but I like Ron's idea about a red flag and suspensions if a driver exits their car unless on fire during a yellow flag.”
CFD: Some of my Caution for Debris readers may not know what a Raceceiver is. It is a one way radio used for the purposes Randy stated.
Below is a reprint from today’s blog on www.therestofthedirt.com:
I received the following from Michael Daly regarding yesterday’s blog:
“How about actually holding responsible the driver who runs over the other driver?”
As of the latest I heard, no criminal charges were being filed against Tony Stewart. I think it would be very difficult to determine criminal intent in this incident. From videos, Kevin Ward Jr. was wearing a dark fire suit and the track was not well lit. The car ahead of Stewart was going the same speed as Stewart and did not have to change the lane he was running during the yellow flag. This is not sticking up for Stewart. I suspect-this is just my suspicion, I could not prove it-that Stewart revved his motor when Ward approached his car. That seems to be part of the process in an incident like this. Perhaps no one would have been hurt it that had not happened.
I have been going to races for a long, long time, and these types of incidents-drivers getting out of a car to confront another driver-seem to be more prevalent than in years past. That causes an extremely dangerous situation. When it was open, Omaha area track Sunset Speedway was one of the top dirt tracks in the country. The policy of that track was if a driver got out of the car except in an emergency situation like fire, he was loaded for the night and had to leave the premises. Somehow promoters have moved away from this strict policy to an almost anything goes for drivers in a wreck.
This has to change. If a dangerous situation continues long enough, something bad is going to happen, and in this case something tragic occurred. It is up to tracks to work together to make sure this never happens again.
As I suggested yesterday, the second a driver gets out of a car the red flag needs to fly. This stops all cars on the track immediately, and a car not moving is not going to be able to injure anyone. Track safety personnel are on the seen of accidents by the time a driver can unbuckle from a car and they need to advise the driver that if he does not go to the pits he will be suspended. Security people need to reach the scene ASAP when a driver gets out of a car and instruct the driver to go to his pit. If he does not follow these instructions, if he in anyway pushes or shoves track personnel he should be suspended for a month-and not just banned from that track, from all tracks.
My solution eliminates any chance of the race car becoming a deadly weapon, plus it makes the downside of venting on the track so severe it would make most drivers think a little bit before taking action that is inherently dangerous. What drivers do in the pits is up to the drivers and the track. If they want to get into each other’s face and call each other every name they can think of, have at it. If they want to duke it out, well, most tracks will break that up quickly.
As far as Tony Stewart being held responsible, I think he will be paying a severe penalty-and no, I do not equate this in anyway to the loss of a life. While I don’t think criminal intent can be established, I do think a civil suit will happen. I think such a case would be settled without a trial, and given Kevin Ward’s age and figuring a rough potential income, I would be surprised if it was settled for less than $5,000,000. With lawyers involved, maybe more.
NASCAR is in somewhat of a bind. While Stewart is a past champion and one of the most popular Sprint Cup drivers, the safety of the other drivers has to be a major consideration. Will Stewart be able to put this behind him and focus totally on the race when he is in his Sprint Cup car? Will that be next week? Next month?
There have been other deaths on a race track-the track is a dangerous place. Drivers have come back to race almost immediately after a death, but this is a special situation. NASCAR has to be sure Stewart is focused totally on what he needs to be. I am really not sure he should be back in the 14 car at Michigan this weekend.
Stewart’s sponsors have a tough decision to make. Again, he is a popular driver, and has been for the most part a good representative for sponsors. However, this will be played in mainstream media for some time and then yet again if there is a civil suit. Will sponsors want to have their business linked to this process?
I do not believe the situation is more tragic because of Stewart’s involvement. I cannot begin to understand what the Ward family is going through at this moment, and hope I never have to experience anything remotely similar. Because Stewart was involved the case has a notoriety it would not have otherwise had. This ought to give racing factions the impetus to make a change-a reasonable one-that will prevent this kind of tragedy from ever happening again. If grassroots racing promoters do not make a change, shame on them.
Thanks for stopping by. I do have plenty to write about, but it all seems small in comparison to what happened at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. Maybe tomorrow I will write of something else.