Tony Stewart’s sprint car attraction goes from problematic to tragic
After Tony Stewart’s NASCAR Sprint
Cup championship hopes were wrecked
last year by an injurious crash at one of
the many sprint car events the ex-open-
wheeler does for fun, his detractors called
it a foolish mistake. They were saying a lot
worse after the horrific incident on Aug. 9
that left a young racer dead, Stewart in
seclusion, and the national media gearing
up for another tilt at the sport it only
tends to notice when a fatality is involved.
EdwaRdS hoPES foR a lEaP foRwaRd
Aside from those trademark backflips
off the roof of his racecars when he wins
in NASCAR Sprint Cup, Carl Edwards is
widely known for his association with
Jack Roush. But not for much longer.
The 34-year-old Edwards has spent his
entire top-level career with Roush, having
first joined “the Cat in the Hat” for a
Truck Series campaign in 2003 before
being promoted to its Cup squad halfway
through the following season. But after
Roush Fenway Racing revealed in May
AJ Allmendinger’s decision to stick with
NASCAR and join Sprint Cup minnow JTG
Daugherty was a surprise to many. But at
Watkins Glen, he became a winner by beating
Cup’s road course hotshoe Marcos Ambrose. J e
that it had signed 2011 Daytona 500
winner Trevor Bayne for a full-time Cup role
next year, it became increasingly clear that
Edwards would be moving on. In August,
he confirmed that he would be joining Joe
Gibbs Racing for 2015, driving a fourth
Toyota Camry alongside incumbent stars
Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and former
Roush stablemate Matt Kenseth.
“Matt’s success over here was a big
eye opener for me,” said Edwards. “It just
felt like it was time to change.”
When the NASCAR star hit Ward during
a caution flag period at a sprint car race
at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in
upstate New York, fatally injuring the
20-year-old, everyone with a You Tube
player seemed eager to weigh in on the
causes of the incident and the motivations
of both men. Stewart released a brief
statement expressing his profound sadness
but then avoided comment, skipping the
Sprint Cup races that followed.
SMOKE UNDER FIRE
While Ontario County Sheriff Phillip
Povero said Stewart was cooperating fully
with the investigation and no evidence of
criminal intent was found, that didn’t stop
the internet from hyperventilating. The
Charlotte Observer made a more salient
point with its report noting that two of
every three deaths in U.S. races over the
past three years occurred on short
tracks, suggesting more rigorous and
uniform safety standards are needed.
No one will ever
know what he was
expecting to achieve
as he walked into
at and apparently
Stewart’s sprint car,
before its right-rear
tire engulfed him.
Briefly stuck beneath
the car, Kevin Ward Jr.
was then hurled down
the track, suffering
what the coroner
blunt trauma.” It was
moment that ended
a career of promise.
It also prompted a
hardening of rules
against drivers exiting
their cars – a positive,
one hopes, in a cruel
sea of negativity.
Whether to defame or defend,
Tony Stewart’s celebrity status
meant that the masses were
eager to judge his actions.
Roush Fenway Racing
is trending younger,
with Trevor Bayne and
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
joining Greg Biffle.
But it’s brought back
old Roush hand Mark
Martin to coach them.
Edwards ( 99) and Biffle
will be in opposing
camps in ’ 15.