The Final Word – Tragedy in New York

Watkins Glen might have hosted the action on Sunday, but it was Saturday night at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park a hundred miles away that drew our attention.

Amateur video shows Kevin Ward Jr racing his Sprint car against Tony Stewart, winding up brushed against the wall and out of action. The 20-year old unbuckled himself, came out of his car, walking toward the cars running under caution. He appeared upset at being taken out of the race, apparently pointing toward Stewart.

We see the car in front of Stewart go past, as Ward appears to take a slight step to his left, away from the car as the video briefly follows it before panning back to pick up Stewart. It happens so fast, so I pause the video showing the young man halfway down the track as Stewart’s car appears in the frame. It appears to be passing him, then Ward is gone. In less than two seconds, his body is flung upward, dragged, then tossed for yards before coming to rest down the track. The crowd reacts as emergency personnel race to his still form.

There are some who claim, in watching the same video, that it shows a deliberate action. It does not. Due to the angle, we do not know the precise distance Ward was standing from Stewart’s, or even the previous car, as it passed. We do know that it was close. There are those who claim Stewart gunned his car as he passed, causing it to fish-tail toward the young man.

In going over the video numerous times I cannot tell for certain if the end of Tony’s car initially flipped ever so slightly to the right or not. If it did, it could not have been by more than a couple of inches, if that. I do know it definitely moves left. In his anger, Ward may have approached too close, within mere inches to the side of Stewart’s moving car, to his rear tires. So close that any slight movement, or no movement at all, was going to catch him. Even under caution the cars were still moving at a fair clip. The engine of Stewart’s car does sound like it revs up, either through a brief acceleration or the car broke traction on the dirt track instantaneously with making contact; contact that appears to have been made with Stewart’s rear right tire.

On Sunday, Stewart did not race. Regan Smith drove for him, as the winless Stewart drops nearly a hundred points out of a Chase place. It was a day of celebration for first time Cup winner A.J. Allmendinger, who shared his condolences for what had taken place the day before even as he secured a Chase berth of his own.

It was a race that featured a great battle in the end between Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose. It featured a terrible crash that saw both Ryan Newman and Michael McDowell walk away from pieces of scrap metal. It saw a bid by Jeff Gordon end when he lost power, Denny Hamlin lost his along with his brake fluid even before finding some barrels to destroy later on, and Kyle Busch left with a gas can and shortly after left with a blown tire.

With four to go, a dozen Chase spots have been claimed by race winners with only four left on points unless another first time victor emerges at Michigan, Bristol, Atlanta, or Richmond. Tony Stewart may be there to contend, but today his thoughts no doubt are understandably with a young man and a track a hundred miles from Watkins Glen.

1 – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – 3 Wins – 773 Points
2 – Brad Keselowski – 3 – 696
3 – Jimmie Johnson – 3 – 650
4 – Jeff Gordon – 2 – 768
5 – Joey Logano – 2 – 671
6 – Carl Edwards – 2 – 658
7 – Kevin Harvick – 2 – 645
8 – Kyle Busch – 1 – 615
9 – Denny Hamlin – 1 – 552
10 – Kurt Busch – 1 – 539
11 – Aric Almirola – 1 – 532
12 – A.J. Allmendinger – 1 – 525
13 – Matt Kenseth – 0 – 703
14 – Ryan Newman – 0 – 645
15 – Kyle Larson – 0 – 635
16 – Clint Bowyer – 0 – 634

17 – Greg Biffle – 0 Wins – 626 Points
18 – Kasey Kahne – 0 – 622
19 – Austin Dillon – 0 – 616
20 – Marcos Ambrose – 0 – 584
21 – Paul Menard – 0 – 574
22 – Brian Vickers – 0 – 573
23 – Jamie McMurray – 0 – 566
24 – Tony Stewart – 0 – 537
25 – Casey Mears – 0 – 516
26 – Martin Truex, Jr. – 0 – 508
27 – Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. – 0 – 447
28 – Danica Patrick – 0 – 419
29 – Justin Allgaier – 0 – 398
30 – Michael Annett – 0 – 360
31 – David Gilliland – 0 – 334
32 – David Ragan – 0 – 312


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

Ron Thornton
Ron Thornton
A former radio and television broadcaster, newspaper columnist, Little League baseball coach, Ron Thornton has been following NASCAR on this site since 2004. While his focus may have changed over recent years, he continues to make periodic appearances only when he has something to say. That makes him a rather unique journalist.


  1. Hey, Martin, what the (blank) are you talking about. You remind me of what Rush calls “low information people.”

    This gibberish just doesn’t register with normal people.


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