John Nevins of captainthunderracing.com has watched the video at least 40 times, and he’s come to a few conclusions about the crash that killed Kevin Ward Jr. in the Empire Super Sprint series at Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Saturday night.
“I thought they were going a little too fast under caution,” Nevins said on Ferrall on the Bench. “They should have been down to 35, 40, 45 miles per hour at that time. But the thing that really stood out to me when I saw the video, the track – as most dirt-tracks are across America – (was) dimly lit. You can’t see too well on the track. Another thing you have to realize is as a race-car driver, you’re not looking for people on the track. You’re looking for other cars. You’re not looking for a guy standing there.”
“I don’t know how well Tony could see under caution, and I don’t know how well Ward could see walking toward the car with tear-offs on. He may not have realized how close he was to the cars.”
Nevins rejected the notion that Stewart hit Ward intentionally.
“People don’t understand sprint cars,” Nevins said. “The only way to get a sprint car to turn is to hit the throttle. A sprint car is much like a WaveRunner or a jet ski. You know that if you let go of the gas (and) try to steer it, they don’t turn. They go straight. The only way to (steer) a WaveRunner is to hit the gas and then they’ll turn. In this case with a sprint car, the only way to make the car turn is to hit the gas.”
“(So if Stewart did see him),” Nevins continued, “the only thing he could have done to avoid him would be to nail the throttle, jerk the wheel and help the car turn left. But to blame Tony Stewart or to assume he did this on purpose or he might have tired to run the kid over – I mean, that is so unfair. Nobody knows what happened other than Tony Stewart, and unfortunately for (him), his previous reputation is damaging him in this situation. People are looking at the Tony Stewart that’s gotten out of race cars and thrown a helmet at Matt Kenseth, that grabs (other drivers) in the garage area, that (has) gotten in the face of reporters and yelled at reporters. That’s the emotional, competitive Tony Stewart.”
And that, Nevins said, is not who Stewart really is.
“Tony Stewart doesn’t have a mean bone in his body,” Nevins explained. “Tony Stewart donated millions of dollars to charity (and) helps handicapped kids all over the country. Tony Stewart has a huge heart, and to think this was a vicious act on his part, I don’t buy that for a minute.”
Indeed, the person most deserving of blame for Ward’s death just might be Ward himself.
“My heart goes out to the Ward family. I can’t imagine what they’re going through losing a child. It’s pain that hopefully none of us ever, ever have to feel,” Nevins said. “But at the end of the day, you have to look at really who’s at fault here. Bottom line is, the kid got out of his car, he walked onto a dimly lit track dressed in a black suit with a black helmet and he acted like a lunatic, waving his arms and pointing and screaming at cars that are moving by. It’s a dangerous thing to do. He put his life at risk and unfortunately he lost his life because of it.”
“I got to ask the question,” Nevins continued. “If it wasn’t Tony Stewart, if it was just another guy that he raced against every Saturday night, would he have gotten out of the car as dramatically as he did? (Would he have) acted like a jackass – waving his arms screaming like he did – if it wasn’t Tony Stewart? And I think the answer is probably no.”