Updated reference 8/20:
Tony Stewart has withdrawn from all Sprint Car races for the year (could be revised). He also did not participate in the Sprint Cup Race for Watkins Glen and Michigan. Announced today that he will also not race at Bristol this weekend. Read Fox Sports coverage here.
Additional reference added 8/13:
There is a significant amount of media coverage. A simple web search and you are up to your ears in fact or opinion. From Kevin Ward Sr.'s interview with the Syracuse Post Standard to interviews with Stewart's hometown locals, a range of opinions of Saturday night's events are offered up as fact or truth. Honestly, these opinions are truths. Each author has their own truth of that night. We live in a world where scientific capital T truth reigns - when in reality many micro and macro truths exist.
The common thread is this - non-racing media's coverage seems to be "Stewart, the killer," racing media's coverage is just shear disbelief.
Racer.com's Robin Miller takes a somewhat honest view - who's Tony, where am I bias, and what's reality... reality, "only Tony knows what really happened." Check out Miller's article here.
Additional reference added 8/12:
New York Daily Mail released an article calling for the media (particularly non-race fans) to pause before they jump to conclusions regarding Stewart, his motives & his temper. Check it out here.
Original post from 8/11:
I had hoped to avoid this post - but know it would be negligence on my part not to acknowledge what happened in Canandaigua. It would also be negligent on my part not to preface that this post is highly personal and does contain both fact and my opinions. I have noted where my personal opinions are included.
I love racing - I grew up with it my whole life, from stock cars to BMX bikes. I know the dangerous realities of these sports - watching my hometown, Randleman, NC, all but shatter under the weight of heartbreak for our first family - the Petty family - with the death of Adam Petty in 2000. As well as living the heartbreak felt throughout the BMX community with the death of Freestyler Colin Winkelmann and the tragic injury sustained by Dirt Rider Stephen Murray. Anyone close to racing and action sports cannot help but feel a similar heartbreak for the family of Kevin Ward, Jr, Tony Stewart and the small track in Upstate New York that will be changed forever.
This weekend served as a reminder that racing, at any level and within any discipline, is dangerous. On Saturday night, Tony Stewart, three-time Sprint Cup Champion in NASCAR, was enjoying his favorite off track pass time - dirt track racing of Sprint Cars. He truly embodies the passion of a racer, someone who has achieved success at the highest level of his sport but just cannot shake the love of racing laps around local dirt tracks across the country against virtually unknown competitors. Associated Press Race Reporter, Jenna Fryer, wrote a great article about the "essence of Tony Stewart" - an essence forever changed by this weekend's events that turned tragic.
This weekend we saw a frenzy of reporting on the tragic death of Kevin Ward, Jr, a 20 year old Sprint Car driver, in what could be considered the most senseless accident in the sport's history. After colliding with Stewart on track, Ward was turned sideways and his racing night ended - common in racing. In the proceeding caution lap, Ward left the safety of his car, walked onto the track and was prepared to confront Stewart as he drove by. For racers, at all levels - including the elite Formula 1, this is not unusual behavior. Showing dissatisfaction with another driver's behavior and its perceived impact on your performance is common - remember these sports are built on aggressive and competitive driving. However, this night - Ward either got a little too close to Stewart's car or Stewart turned a little too close to Ward. Either way, Ward was too close to Stewart's car and was pulled under the car and hurled across the track. He died on the way to the hospital. To be honest, we may never know which is true - my opinion is that the former is much more likely than the latter. Could it be wishful thinking for fear of what the latter would mean at all levels of racing?
This post reflects two important truths - racing, in a variety of disciplines, will feel the ripples of this event, both due to Stewart's significance and his dedication to all of racing. The second, the media are bias and fickle. To be honest, I am not sure how any of the "sporting media," particularly those close to the racing community, could remain unbiased. Many in the racing media have noted that the event will force all of us, from fan to participant, to pick a side. However, I offer my opinion - Motorsports.com's Steven Cole Smith wrote an excellent piece that really paints a picture that for me is reality. He broke down the facts of how Sprint Cars are raced and driven that I believe helps the reader understand what may have happened that night. I encourage you to read it - click here for the full story.
I leave you with a few photos - these are snapshots of media posts regarding the event. Note the difference between national media, sporting media and racing media. As you read more about the event in the media - I ask that you consider your sources, evaluate the facts and keep in mind that this will have lasting fingerprints on these sports - and on the greater public as they form opinions about the sports I love.