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This June 28, 2014 photo shows sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr., at the Merrittville Speedway in Thorold, Canada. Ward was killed Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014 at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate N.Y., when the car being driven by Tony Stewart struck the 20-year-old who had climbed from his crashed car and was on the darkened dirt track trying to confront Stewart following a bump with Stewart one lap earlier. (Empire Super Sprints, Inc./AP Photo)
This June 28, 2014 photo shows sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr., at the Merrittville Speedway in Thorold, Canada. Ward was killed Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014 at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate N.Y., when the car being driven by Tony Stewart struck the 20-year-old who had climbed from his crashed car and was on the darkened dirt track trying to confront Stewart following a bump with Stewart one lap earlier. (Empire Super Sprints, Inc./AP Photo)

Motorsports

Was NASCAR's wild west justice a factor in driver's death? Add to ...

On tap this week:

  • Stewart's actions normal in NASCAR
  • DeGrand's weekend from hell
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  • Newman criticises safety at The Glen
  • Quote of the Week: Praise for Ambrose
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About halfway into Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide race at Watkins Glen, Penske driver Joey Logano radioed his crew chief after Marcos Ambrose made his car extra wide in a restart and told him that his rival had just used his free pass.

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If the Richard Petty Motorsport driver tried another block, Logano made it clear that Ambrose would be “dumped.” Translation: Logano would run into Ambrose deliberately and cause him to have an accident.

Using your car as a 1,500-kilogram battering ram is common in NASCAR and the series does little to police the potentially dangerous behaviour. In fact, its “boys have at it” approach encourages Wild West justice where drivers take matters into their own hands mete out punishment as they see fit.

So did NASCAR’s lassiez-faire attitude towards altercations on track play a role in the incident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr., 20, during a Saturday night sprint car race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York?

The Sprint car racer was struck and killed as he walked on track to confront three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart. Ward was trying to show his displeasure with Stewart after being squeezed into the wall by the NASCAR driver, who was making a guest appearance in the race.

Early reports from the track indicated that Stewart gunned the throttle as Ward neared, went sideways, and struck the fellow driver with his rear tire, throwing him about 15 metres. Ward was pronounced dead in hospital late on Saturday night. As it stands, no criminal charges are pending against Stewart who police said has cooperated with the investigation.

It was another in a long list of questionable decisions by the 43-year-old veteran, who seems to erupt more often than Hawaii’s Mount Kilauea. The by-product is NASCAR attracting attention every time Stewart has a meltdown.

For example, NASCAR garnered huge publicity when the clip of Stewart throwing his helmet at another car on pit road during a race last year in Bristol was seen on newscasts around the globe.

In this Aug. 25, 2012, file photo, NASCAR driver Tony Stewart, left, confronts Matt Kenseth (17) after the two collided during a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race in Bristol, Tenn. Stewart struck and killed a 20-year-old racer who had climbed from his car Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, to confront Stewart on a New York dirt track following a crash caused by contact between the two cars.
 

Even though the move not only potentially endangered his intended target, Matt Kenseth, but also all the crew members, officials and media working in the pitlane, Stewart was not even fined for his helmet toss. At the time NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said the series didn’t feel Stewart “crossed the line with our new parameters of getting a little more back to the drivers to control their own actions.”

For his part, Stewart withdrew from Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen, a move that likely cost his team any chance of making the 10-race Chase for the Cup playoff that decides the season champion.

NASCAR issued a statement about the death saying in a release that “our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and fellow competitors of Kevin Ward Jr. We support Tony Stewart’s decision to miss today’s race and we will continue to respect the process and timeline of the local authorities and will continue to monitor this situation moving forward.”

By the Numbers: Going into the final two races of the new F1600 Super Series finale, points leader Tristan DeGrand was cruising to the title.

He had already won five of the first six races in 2014 and held a comfortable 100-point lead – the equivalent of a race win – as the series prepared for two races on Saturday as part of the under card of the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières.

Essentially, only a complete disaster on the streets of Trois-Rivières could derail his title. Unfortunately the racing gods had just that kind of luck in store for the 18-year-old from St. Louis and he went away empty-handed.

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