Tony Stewart crash is a tragic lesson in road rage

Written By BY RICK MORRISSEY Staff Columnist Posted: 08/11/2014, 02:12pm
Array ADDS MANDATORY CREDIT- This June 28, 2014 photo provided by Empire Super Sprints, Inc., shows sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr., at the Merrittville Speedway in Thorold, Canada. Ward was killed Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014 at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park in Central Square, N.Y., when the car being driven by Tony Stewart struck the 20-year-old who had climbed from his crashed car and was on the darkened dirt track trying to confront Stewart following a bump with Stewart one lap earlier. (AP Photo/Empire Super Sprints, Inc.)

Most of us understand that cars and anger do not go well together. We see them driving together too often on the road, and, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit we’re not proud of some of things we’ve done behind the wheel in all our self-righteousness.

Take all those emotions, plus ultra-competitiveness, and you’re starting to understand the world of racecar drivers. Put those people in machines built for speed, and you have a recipe for disaster. Not just innocent car-on-car collisions or car-and-wall mishaps, but acts of road rage at ridiculous speeds.

At this point, none of us can be sure what happened when Tony Stewart’s sprint car hit and killed fellow racer Kevin Ward Jr. as he ran onto the track to confront the superstar racer. Videotape shows that moments earlier, Stewart’s car had hit Ward’s, sending it into a fence at a dirt track in upstate New York. Ward jumped out of his car, walked onto the half-mile loop as the vehicles came back around and was killed when Stewart’s car hit him.

Stewart hasn’t been charged with a crime, but that hasn’t stopped national discussion about his intent in the tragedy. Did he hit the gas so that his car would fishtail and send the 20-year-old a message? Was it more ominous than that? Did he even see Ward?

We may never know. What we do know is that Ward shouldn’t have walked onto the track after the accident. We know that, no matter what Stewart had in mind, Ward’s anger fueled his own death.

Here’s the thing: Nothing can be done about it. You can’t legislate animosity out of racing. Anger helps feed competitiveness in sports. One of the reasons Michael Jordan was so good was that he remembered every perceived slight in his career. The ones who might have slighted him eventually found themselves trampled in his competitive rage.

So putting men (mostly) in racecars and rewarding whoever finishes first? Sit back and watch the sparks fly. Millions of race fans do.

It’s easy for us to say there’s no place for anger in auto racing, what with life and limb being at stake. It’s just not realistic.

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