Racing

Stewart accident sends shockwaves through area

Posted August 11

The consensus among race fans is that the accident Saturday that killed sprint car driver Kevin Ward was just that, an accident.

Most fans also believe there was no criminal intent in the incident at a small dirt track in Port Leyden, NY, by former NASCAR champion Tony Stewart.

Stewart has been known to have a quick and frequent temper, but in a sport with strong personalities, that is nothing new.

Racing is a big circle of combustible elements, with high octane, high horsepower and high testosterone levels. There is a great deal riding on the drivers. Tempers, like tires, are bound to blow.

The 20-year-old Ward was spun out by Stewart, and emerged from his car clearly steaming.

“Just poor judgment on his part,” said.Steve Byers, owner of Grocery Boy Junior in Raleigh, a store that sells NASCAR collectibles. “Obviously very upset and everything, but I can’t believe anything was ever done intentionally."

Byers has seen the footage of Stewart’s car hitting and killing Ward on the track.

“It’s dark and you got mud flying everywhere,” he said. “The driver was in a black suit and black helmet."

The entire situation was an accident in Byers' mind, not an act of heat-of-the-moment malice.

When you own a die-cast Jeff Gordon car, as Rocky Lee does, or work at a speedway, like Michael Cooper, the topic is unavoidable.

“They’re gonna naturally make it a little bit stricter now,” Lee said. “Them boys gonna have to stay in the car, they ain’t gonna be allowed to get out that car. You’re gonna have to stay with your car."

“It’s a small track, so everybody’s right on top of each other,” said Cooper, the operations manager at Wake County Speedway."

Cooper says Saturday’s tragedy will throw up new caution flags on his track.

“We’re definitely gonna make sure everybody knows,” he said. “Our drivers know, that they stay in the cars until somebody gets here. If not, we’ll penalize them somehow.”

It’s a dangerous circle, but hot tempers are no match against hot tires on track.

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