any response from our driving expert on the unfortunate series of events at a race last night beyond the obvious stupidity of a driver walking on to a track to confront another driver mid-race? im not talking about the stupidity that racing appreciates whatever controversy fuels fandom and thus quietly applauds any and all testosterone-fueled confrontations. moreso to the notion ive read online that stewart acted equally as impulsive and could have avoided the driver but was intent on scaring him. then upon accelerating, he accidentally fishtailed the life out of the 20 year old. i actually dont want to watch the video, but you should for me!

- dave 8-10-2014 6:15 pm

I've seen the video. I didn't know anyone had died before clicking. I found out afterwards. I'm not a big fan of the snuff film aspect of replaying crash fatality video over and over for the general public. Once upon a time, broadcasters wouldn't do replays. The last fatality I saw while watching a race was Greg Moore, driving an Indy Car, at Cal Speedway in 1999. The broadcasters knew it was a bad crash, and avoided the replays.

That self-policing ended with Dale Earnhardt's fatal crash at Daytona in 2001. Granted, they started the replay loop before knowing he was dead. The crash doesn't look that bad from the outside. It would not have been fatal had Dale not been a stupid fuck about safety equipment. (His seat belt was installed and worn incorrectly, and he failed to wear a HANS device long after it was clear that everyone should. NASCAR was stupid about safety equipment too, but has gotten better.)

So it's no surprise that fans will follow suit with posting, replaying, analyzing, etc. At this point it's an unstoppable tide.

That being said, I probably would have watched it anyway. I'm in charge of motorsports events and want to better understand what can go wrong. The video points out how fast something very bad can happen.

Okay, on to the point of encouraging that sort of posturing. It didn't take long for people to post a clip of Tony Stewart throwing his helmet at another car during a NASCAR race. So, Stewart has been on the other side of the pedestrian v. car situation. In a European series, that helmet stunt would mostly likely get a driver banned for a year or more. In the US, the announcers commented on the accuracy of the helmet toss.

That sort of posturing happens at all levels of motorsports in the US. I haven't seen/heard much in the road course world (cars turn left *and* right), but I've seen/heard plenty in the circle track world. Here's one from Winston-Salem that could have ended very badly. One difference is this incident was with a fendered car. Sprint cars have exposed tires, which present a whole different level of risk.

Tony Stewart is the only one who knows what was going through his mind. There are reports that a camera was mounted on his car. If there is audio/video on that, perhaps it can shed some light.

- mark 8-10-2014 9:44 pm

The type of event I run is in big parking lots. I tend to allow for a lot more "run off" room than the video linked below allows. My events are educational rather than competitive, but the concept is the same.

Corvette whacks curb

I've heard guidelines that talk about 25' clearance. I had arguments on the morning of an event with someone who said 25' is good enough. I operate under an organization that says 25' is okay, except for fast corners. In the video, I'd estimate 40' between the edge of the course (as defined by cones) and a hard object. This is clearly insufficient if the car has any sort of lateral load combined with any sort of speed.

When laying out a course, I vary the distance based on circumstances. But I tend to work in the 60' to 150' range for safety margins. Obviously, wheel to wheel racing is a different matter, but that's why the safety equipment (and staying in the damn car) are so important.

- mark 8-10-2014 11:27 pm

I found a slo-mo version. It looks like the kid tried to climb up on into Stewart's car. There are bars on the side of sprint cars called nerf bars. It looks like he tried to climb up using the nerf bars and the roof wing. If so, he goes from stupid to monumentally stupid.

Regarding the gunning or burping the engine, I don't find the audio convincing. I've seen a version with a different A/V sync. I wouldn't put it past someone to doctor the sync. Also, Stewart's car is on the far side of the track in a very zoomed-in frame. The reving could have come from a car on the near side, or anywhere not in frame.

Stewart may or may not have been playing chicken. But it looks like the kid was definitely playing crazy.

I'm on a private email reflector with a few dozen motorheads of various stripes. (Although only a couple of have done circle track.) Opinions seem split. I posted a link to the slo-mo video with my interpretation. That may start a whole nother round of jibber jabber.
- mark 8-11-2014 5:36 am

earlier in an espn thread someone claimed to be a sound engineer or something like that (and not particularly a racing fan) and it was his sense that the revving of the engine did not come from stewarts car either. he mentioned where he thought the sound was coming from but i cant recall what he said.
- dave 8-11-2014 5:47 am

Ward turns to face Stewart's car.

- mark 8-11-2014 5:11 pm

Ward hanging on to Stewart's car by the roof wing.

- mark 8-11-2014 5:16 pm

He positioned himself to grab onto the car, did so, and fell off.
- mark 8-11-2014 5:21 pm

what made him so angry and why would he try to do that?
- linda 8-11-2014 5:36 pm

you are right. i do see a second shooter just beyond the grassy knoll.

- dave 8-11-2014 6:13 pm

seems nuts that anyone would blame the driver when a guy comes running toward him in the middle of a race...
- linda 8-11-2014 7:09 pm

Linda, it's an unfortunate aspect of circle track racing. I believe the first national broadcast of a stock car race featured a fist fight in the infield. There are plenty of videos of drivers out of the cars calling out the one tha done them wrong, or throwing stuff, or charging cars, or grabbing onto cars. Typically the close contact is with cars that have fenders. Exposed wheels are very dangerous.

On the road there's a name for this: road rage. On the track it's called the red mist. Red mist is a catchall for whenever rational thought is supressed by glandular thinking.

Part of the problem in this case is age. The pre-frontal cortex does not reach full development until the mid/late twenties. (Won't you be glad in the early 2030's when your kids reach that age.) Military organizations love young men for exactly this reason.
- mark 8-12-2014 2:32 am

By the way, I don't mean to single out your kids. I did a lot of stupid shit in my twenties.
- mark 8-12-2014 10:18 am

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