Editorial – by Michael T. Myers
There have been widespread calls for new rules in all forms of racing that could prevent the tragedy that happened at Canandaigua Speedway from ever happening again. These rules already exist in most series and while there are changes that sanctioning bodies need to make – we need to look inward as fans and stakeholders of racing.
Immediately after the accident, self-appointed experts jumped onto the internet to weigh in. They scolded Kevin Ward for climbing out of his car. They chastised him for angrily walking on a live track to express his displeasure with Tony Stewart. These “experts” blamed a young driver for letting his temper get the best of him.
The fact is, that Ward was simply parroting his racing heroes. He was emulating behavior that the racing world has celebrated for generations.
Hours before the tragedy, in the Nationwide Race at Watkins Glen, J.J. Yeley walked to the edge of an active track to angrily gesture at Trevor Bayne.
In 1999, at Martinsville Speedway, Tony Stewart famously threw his helmet at Kenny Irwin’s car and while standing on the track, tried to reach into Irwin’s moving car and punch him.
In 2007, at Dover, Tony Raines walked into caution traffic to toss his helmet at Robby Gordon.
I won’t list them all, because this post would be thicker than the phone book. But do you know what all of these incidents have in common….. cheers and screams of approval from the grandstands.
These incidents are not only celebrated by the fans – they are celebrated and promoted by NASCAR and track owners. The exciting footage is used in commercials to promote the sport and sell tickets. The footage finds its way into countless highlight reels detailing our sports history.
It’s easy for us all to sit here and blame Kevin Ward for climbing out of his car. It’s easy for us all to blame Tony Stewart for taking the high line into that turn.
But we all need to look inward. While rules can be created and penalties increased……….. as fans and stakeholders, we must stop celebrating the culture of temper tantrum.
If somehow, things worked out differently – let’s supposed Kevin hadn’t been hit. Let’s imagine that he threw his helmet at Tony…….. the fans would have cheered. No one would have scolded him for getting out of his car.
You can’t stop a driver from getting mad – but you can stop applauding it.