NASCAR drivers blasted armchair pundits and the some media members for jumping to conclusions after Tony Stewart’s tragic accident and fatal accident that killed Kevin Ward Jr.
Days before Stewart spoke to the media on Friday for the first time since the tragedy, Kevin Harvick, who is a longtime Stewart friend along with Harvick’s wife, said the “most frustrating part” since the tragedy “was just the fact, just the perception from a lot of unknowledgeable people about our sport in general and the perception that was given to Tony in the accident.”
“Obviously, it was a very tragic accident; you have someone who’s dead,” Harvick said. “But on the other side of that fence, you have somebody that I know for a fact, not (just) in my heart but I know for a fact that he’s not just going to run somebody over on purpose and say ‘this is how I’m going to handle this.'”
He said the the media, if they wanted to, can put together a highlight reel of angry outbursts of any driver.
Other drivers expressed frustration that people who knew nothing about the sport irrationally commented on the matter and ignored some of the statements from drivers who were at the dirt track where the fatal accident occurred. Some observers at the track emphasized after the race that “Tony was ahead of Kevin when he wrecked… he had no idea that Kevin was the reason for the caution [until] he came back around,how could that be premeditated ???” Tyler Graves, a driver in the fatal race and Ward’s friend, said after the race that Stewart should be jailed for life because he believed that Stewart saw Ward approaching him. But some in the NASCAR community felt that the media ignored the comments of other drivers and personnel who were at the race.
Mark Tychoniewicz, who works on one of the cars in the video, defended Stewart on Facebook after the race:
i have driven these cars,the right side board on the top wing will block out an entire car let alone a person standing there,i now work on the 45 car in the video and the driver said he just saw him at the last second and just missed him,Tony had even less time to react to the situation.people in the stands or watching this video have no idea how fast these thing happen and how limited our view is inside the car.it was a very bad turn of events that happened but we all know the dangers involved in the sport we love.
And Cody Sparks, a sprint car drive who was “just a few cars behind Stewart during Saturday’s race,” said after the race that “videos that have been posted online do not give an accurate picture of what happened.”
“From what I saw, Tony did everything in his power to turn down away from Kevin to avoid him,” he told a local outlet. “People say that they heard the engine rev up and he gassed it. In a sprint car, the only way to steer is you steer with the rear wheels as much as you do the steering wheel. In my opinion, what he did was he gassed it to turn down away from him.”
Sparks, speaking to a local outlet “also said drivers are very limited with the amount they can see out of the right side of the car.”
“Kevin was wearing all-black. A black fire suit, a black helmet, which in normal situations isn’t a big deal, they are to go with the colors of your car. It was tragic accident and a mistake was made,” he continued. “I think that the biggest thing is to remember Kevin Ward as a great race car driver, not a victim of Tony Stewart.