Thursday, August 14, 2014

COMMENTARY: Time To Create A Positive

From negatives often come positives. NASCAR, sanctioning bodies and race tracks across North America have an opportunity to make something positive out of the horrible tragedy that took the life of racer Kevin Ward, Jr. last Saturday night.

The headlines have been dominated this week by the story of the 20-year old Port Leyden, NY, driver, who emerged from his damaged race car to confront NASCAR driver Tony Stewart following a crash in an Empire Super Sprints event in upstate New York, then died after being hit by Stewart’s car.

In the days following the tragedy, a number of tracks have instituted new rules prohibiting drivers from leaving their damaged cars until cleared to do so by track officials, except in the event of fire or other life-threatening circumstance. It is a prudent move; one that both NASCAR and other sanctioning bodies would do well to emulate.

Some, including former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski and NASCAR on TNT commentator Wally Dallenbach, Jr. have spoken out against such a rule recently, saying there are already too many regulations in motorsports and that such a stipulation would take the spontaneity out of the game. Spontaneity is a wonderful thing, and I’m all for emotion in the sport. I jump out of my seat as quickly as the next guy when drivers climb out of their battered race cars and go nose-to-nose (or fist to nose) with each other.

But my amusement is not worth someone’s life.

Angry people cannot be relied upon to be clear thinkers. Common sense often goes out the window in times of stress or high emotion, and people make bad decisions, putting themselves and others in positions of unnecessary risk. It happened Saturday night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, and it happens dozens of times each season at race tracks across the country. And despite Saturday night’s horrifying example of how things can go tragically, terribly wrong, it will happen again this weekend at a race track near you.

The sad truth is that from time to time, people need to be protected from themselves. Racers are no exception. In the aftermath of Dale Earnhardt’s death in the 2001 Daytona 500, some drivers resisted a NASCAR mandate that they wear head and neck restraints on the race track at all times. They cited claustrophobia, impaired lateral vison, delayed egress from a potentially burning race car and a hundred other factors as reasons for them not to wear the lifesaving devices. But NASCAR held firm, and today, every driver in every NASCAR national series wears a HANS or Hutchens device. There have been no deaths due to basal skull fractures since Earnhardt’s tragic passing, and that is no coincidence.

A new rule requiring drivers to remain in their race cars until safety workers arrive on the scene, backed by substantial monetary fines, championship point deductions and even suspensions will prove equally effective, keeping drivers enveloped in the relative safety of their race cars for the few precious moments necessary to allow anger to pass and common sense to return.

Common sense alone will not get the job done, as evidenced by the dozens of YouTube videos showing drivers bailing out of damaged race cars each week to risk life and limb, all in the interest of “telling off” a fellow competitor who richly deserves the telling. We think we're invincible; that a tragedy like the one that felled Kevin Ward, Jr., last Saturday night cannot possibly happen to us.

That’s what we tell ourselves, despite knowing -- all too well -- that it’s not true.

Kevin Ward, Jr. did not plan on losing his life Saturday night, but it happened. And it will happen again, unless the people in charge of running these shows have the intestinal fortitude to do something about it.

Losing 100 points in the midst of a championship chase will absolutely make drivers stop and think. Men and women will risk their lives at the wheel of speeding race cars, but they will not risk losing valuable championship points by blowing their tops. They will not risk the money needed to buy that new set of tires, and they will not risk sitting on the sidelines next Saturday night, watching others do what they love most.

Kevin Ward, Jr., was laid to rest today in his native New York, surrounded by family members and friends who are struggling to make sense of a senseless tragedy. We owe it to them – and to ourselves -- to ensure that it never happens again.


  1. Anonymous1:08 PM

    Rational and well reasoned, as usual, Dave. Thanks.

  2. Anonymous1:09 PM

    I think if drivers can not control their tempers towards fellow drivers and stay in their cars, {unless a fire} then there SHOULD be stiff fines and point taken away. It will save their life, and Not ruin the life of the person that hit them. Tony did NOT seek out to take a life, that person Chose to run into harms way. God gave us all brains. Im sorry for the loss of a young life, but look at the toll it has put upon Mr Stewart, he didnt plan on taken a life of another. Its no different when a deer ran out in front of me, there is a fraction of a second to respond. My prayers are with the Ward family, and with Tony.
    God bless them all

  3. Anonymous1:13 PM

    GODFATHER you right on the money with the statement you just gave

  4. Robert G.1:19 PM

    Couple of comments:
    1) It has been said that hitting a driver with points that already has a win is very little punishment. I would think that even $50K for the high profile drivers is not much. Need to come up with a way to really penalize drivers and crews for their actions
    2) On top of Brad and Wally, a local radio station reported that Jeff Hammond made the comment on Race Hub that we should not make changes just for the sake of safety (I can't find a clip or text that quotes him directly so if I have misquoted him I apologize).

    1. Anonymous6:17 PM

      I think the Only way to get it through some of these drivers heads with anger issues, hot heads or just showing off in front of the crowds, whatever the case maybe is to set a high manditory fine of $100,0000 & 100 points taken and also to sit out the next 2 races. I would only HOPE that would show the driver how dangerous & serious it would be to get out of their car and chase another driver down.

  5. The only positive to come from this is if racing stops avoiding the right thing and instead starts holding racers accountable. Tony Stewart is responsible for what happened to Kevin Ward, not Kevin Ward or some missing rule that tracks are suddenly now implementing. Tony Stewart needs to be held accountable for this. Period.

    1. Anonymous4:52 PM

      You are wrong. Kevin made the choice to get out of his car and walk onto a track where he put everyone single driver on the track at that moment at risk of hitting him - he is NOT blameless. I do not say that lightly - but it is unfair to say that Tony is 100% responsible. They both knew the ultimate risk in racing is death - you just make the assumption it would be in the car. It was a tragedy and if this rule had been in place - Kevin would still be here.

    2. No, Mr. Anonymous, you are the one who is wrong. Kevin got out of his car knowing the other drivers would drive by him without incident, because it is their responsibility to avoid contact with anyone on foot, particularly under caution with track workers etc. moving about. Ward is 100% blameless - he is the victim. Tony Stewart did not live up to his responsibility, and as Tom Sorenson has noted, his history of confrontations and explosions of anger becomes a part of the discussion because of the reality of their existence. The other drivers drove by Kevin Ward without problem - and Tony Stewart did not. Tony Stewart is the one who needs to be held accountable, not the rulebook.

    3. Anonymous10:48 PM

      Oh Monkeesfan you are so far out in left field its unreal.. Tony has blame but so did Mr. Ward, he is not blameless. You are sitting in the confines of a car with roll bars, restraints, and every saftey item that one can have in a race car. You CHOOSE to leave it and you have a helmet and a driving suit not alot of protection against a moving vehicle.

      Tony has to live withteh fact someone died from a car that he was driving and that will be hard enough. I feel for the Ward family but he was jsut as much to blame as Tony is..

  6. geno3554:02 PM

    I believe the only salvation Tony Stewart has is to tell the truth. It takes"two to tango". Both drivers made mistakes. TRAGICALLY. Tony Stewart has the opportunity to tell the truth about what mistake he made. Kevin Ward does not.
    My question is: What was Tony Stewart doing racing with J.V.racers(no offense outlaw guys)comparatively for anyway? Fun? Ok, fun. Putting another car in the wall (who will probably never race with the great Tony Stewart)just to win? Win what? He's a 3 time NASCAR champion. Does he HAVE to win everywhere? Can you imagine the elation of those other drivers racing that night? They were actually racing with Tony Stewart !! Unless Tony comes clean about what happened, he will be hard to find someone to race with. Make no mistake, I'm a Tony Stewart fan. I like Tony Stewart.

    1. Unfortunately, due to the likelihood of a civil suit, it is highly unlikely that Tony Stewart will be able to say much in the foreseeable future.

    2. Also, unfortunately, the haters and bashers will be out in force asking why Tony is hiding behind his lawyers. I hope, for everyone's sake, Tony finds a way to get out in front of this put this matter to rest.

    3. I may be wrong, but I don't think there is any possibility of that happening in the foreseeable future.

    4. Anonymous4:25 PM

      Why is "the truth" so important to you? Tony doesn't affect your life, why should he be subject to your judgement???? Tony comes clean, hogwash, you have NO right to expect or demand that of anyone, what are you his judge and jury?

    5. geno3556:19 PM

      No, I am not his judge or jury....his conscience is.....that is who he struggles with...not me...grow up

    6. Anonymous9:49 PM

      Your reply is grow up? I guess when you're callenged you have no logical comeback. Those of you who think you have the right to demand ANYTHING of Tony should make your own lives an open book, then we'll see how you feel.

      Judges of the internets, your wisdom is fleeting.

  7. Anonymous4:23 PM

    Very well said Mr Moody.

  8. I'm afraid this "Boys Have at It" could lead to a bad thing happening. Retailing on pit road could really have consequences with all the crew members (Busch/Harvick) or the massive fight that broke out with Gordon/Boyer crews amongst bystanders is not the best highlights.

  9. geno3555:16 PM

    Civil suit aside, the RIGHT thing to do is tell the truth.. the courts will do what they will. Telling the truth is forgivable , silence is not. He has everything to gain. Staying silent and reclused will not sit well with the racing public. Mistakes are usually forgiven if you own up to it. It takes a man to own his actions. Accident, poor judgement ,all answer sounds all too sketchy.. again , I like Tony, but hiding won't make it go away

    1. Anonymous12:31 PM

      Wow, the "RIGHT" thing to do. So you and your fellow judgemental 'fans' get another notch on your belts? Neither you or I can insist what is the "right" thing for Tony to do. How many things in your life have you admitted to because it was the "RIGHT" thing to do or, can we assume you can throw stones without guilt?

  10. Anonymous3:00 AM

    It seems objective "journalism", goodness even saying the word objective should not be in the same sentence..Anyhoo, I digress. Mr. Moody seems to have a big interest in the way Tony is perceived. I cannot think of another racer who's past performances and poor choices verbally and otherwise have been forever saved for all to see, HE did this, not my mind and what I think, its what I saw over the years. Why the rush to defend?????????? Nascar media has played
    "favorites" for years, so much the fans think they are on the payroll of Nascar or the the biggest money team. Tony's past rightly or wrongly, one cannot help but automatically think the worst at first hearing of this horrible incident. Why try to make our minds think anything different. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt(like he needs it), while I think he is a fine driver, his personality always seemed unbalanced to me, certainly with Nascars encouragement, imo. Sell, Sell, Sell! Well...look now.

  11. dualquadguy10:26 AM

    What does the "CAUTION" light mean?

  12. In an altruistic world, I would agree with you. But, I'm sure that Tony's lawyers will insist that he keeps his mouth shut, knowing, full well, that anything he says can and will be used against him. Sorry.