FENWICK: Spinning Wheels
CONCORD, N.C. — There is no doubt that what happened Saturday night at New York’s Canandaigua Motorsports Park was tragic.
Kevin Ward Jr. was only 20 years old when he was struck and killed by a sprint car driven by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart. The facts surrounding the incident are still being determined by the Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff’s Department, so we won’t offer an opinion as to what happened beyond what has already been stated here.
Instead, we would like to address the backlash from the accident. Everyone knows Stewart is a race car driver, team owner and a race track owner. Racing is and seemingly always has been his life’s passion. He is as close to a modern day A.J. Foyt or Mario Andretti as we’re going to find.
Yes, Stewart is a bit brash or even aggressive with his words from time to time. Yes, he has thrown a helmet at another driver on national television (August 2012 at Bristol) and gotten into scuffles at the race track (March 2013 at Fontana and February 2000 at Daytona).
As a result, Stewart’s every move is under a microscope. That is true now more than ever. Many uneducated members of the national media and the general population have blasted Stewart for his actions on Saturday night. Some have even gone so far to call him a murderer or a killer.
The fact of the matter is that Stewart did hit and kill another man with his race car. Beyond that, nothing else is known. For people to crucify Stewart as a result is unfair to a man who has done nothing but dedicate his life to auto racing, a sport he has proven time and again that he loves above anything.
At this point, Stewart has not been charged with a crime. That may or may not change, but until he is convicted in a court of law Stewart has legally done nothing wrong. There is this phrase in the American justice system, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
If down the line Stewart is arrested in connection with the incident and charged with a crime then that changes things, but right now none of that has happened. At this point, he was simply involved in a tragic accident.
Regardless of the outcome of the investigation by the Ontario County Sheriff’s Department, Stewart will have to live with the fact the accident resulted in Ward’s death. It is a burden Stewart will carry the rest of his life. Leave him to bare it in peace and don’t issue judgment when it isn’t your place to do so.