Saturday night NASCAR icon Tony Stewart single-handedly quadrupled NASCAR’s slumping television ratings when he hit and killed Kevin Ward Jr in a Sprint Car race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York.
Ward, 20, had been run into the wall by Stewart the lap before, wrecking his #13 Sprint car and in a jealous rage, Ward confronted Stewart’s car on foot, wagging a very intimidating finger at the former NASCAR champion.
One car swerved to avoid the irate driver but Stewart didn’t miss his target, striking the 20-year-old and dragging him several feet to his death.
Ward was still wearing his flame resistant race suit and helmet at the time of his accident. His family insists that he was always one for safety. Except for that one time when he walked into speeding traffic.
It’s unclear whether Stewart will face charges for the accident or receive a bonus from NASCAR for his split second decision, or possibly both. He refused comment after the suspended race, and his spokesman is insisting he’ll go on record just as soon as his public relations assistant evaluates public opinion on the matter.
Other NASCAR drivers were not withholding their comments, however. “My thoughts and prayers are with the Ward family,” said Jimmie Johnson. “It’s unfortunate that the only way NASCAR can get headlines these days is if there’s a fatality.”
Tony Stewart planned to race Sunday at Watkins Glen but changed his mind immediately before the race. Driver Regan Smith drove his car instead. Sources tell us Stewart spent all day in his camper playing Grand Theft Auto, visibly traumatized from the previous night’s events.
Meanwhile, both Tony Stewart and Kevin Ward Jr are both tending on Google News and in the Twittersphere.The tragedy may be just the shot in the arm NASCAR needed to get the fans interested in racing again. Next week the racers compete at Michigan Motor Speedway.