There have been many other instances in which Tony Stewart’s legendary temper has flared without drawing punishment. From throwing helmets to breaking a girl’s back and now he has finally killed someone. When does an anger management coach step in and save him from himself? Why did NASCAR not step in and assign him one or evaluate him before each race? This needs to change, we as a society should demand sports professionals be evaluated and assessed and assigned an anger management coach.
Kevin Ward Jr. was struck and killed by Tony Stewart’s car Saturday night in an incident at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park in Canandaigua, N.Y. (Photo: KevinWardRacing.com)
“Without suggesting any blame here, I think most people agree the days when drivers stand on a racetrack during a live race have to go,” said Zak Brown, founder of Just Marketing, which has represented sponsors in NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One. “It’s happened for years in every form of motorsport globally and that practice has to stop.”
During ESPN’s prerace broadcast Sunday, analyst and former crew chief Andy Petree said Ward’s death would be “a watershed moment for racing in general. Even if there’s rule changes or procedure changes going forward, it’s going to be something every race car driver will think about it. The impact of this tragic event is going to be felt from here forward. I think you’ll see a lot of changes.”
Greg Zipadelli, vice president of competition for Stewart-Haas Racing, announced Stewart would not race Sunday
It wasn’t clear how much input — if any — sponsors had in Stewart’s decision to sit out the race, but it’s certain SHR consulted them.
In NASCAR, drivers are corporate spokesmen expected to deliver a company’s message with a clean image. Though Stewart is a pitchman extraordinaire whose blue-collar persona offers appeal, Ward’s death is the latest of several on- and off-track incidents that have raised questions about why he always seems caught in a maelstrom of controversy.
During the 2010-11 offseason, Stewart said he was “very embarrassed and ashamed” after being questioned by Australian police (he wasn’t charged) for hitting a track promoter with a helmet over a dispute over track safety while on a five-week racing tour of the country.
In 2002, Stewart nearly lost his ride at Joe Gibbs Racing for shoving a photographer at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after a 12th-place finish in the Brickyard 400. He sought anger management counseling and was placed on probation for the incident, as he also was for striking Brian Vickers after a 2004 Cup race at Sonoma Raceway.
There have been many other instances in which Stewart’s legendary temper has flared without drawing punishment. Two years ago at Bristol Motor Speedway, he wasn’t disciplined for hurling his helmet at Matt Kenseth’s car after a crash while racing for the lead.