Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tony Stewart And His Depraved Indifference

Photo credit:  Andrew Brusso
I fully expect to take heat for what I am going to say on the subject of the death of Sprint car driver Kevin Ward, Jr. at the hands of Tony Stewart.

When the news broke early Sunday morning, news outlets refused to show the moment that Stewart’s car struck and killed the young Ward citing its graphic content.  I watched the video numerous times.  I even uploaded it to a video capture program so I could view the incident in slow motion.  The inescapable truth, in my view, is that Tony Stewart exhibited depraved indifference—a term under the law that describes conduct “so wanton, so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so lacking in regard for the life or lives of others and so blameworthy as to warrant the same criminal liability as that which the law imposes upon a person who intentionally causes a crime.”  Depraved indifference centers on the risk created by a person’s conduct rather than the injuries that resulted from their conduct.

Reports are clear that when Stewart caused Ward to crash on Turn 2 officials threw out the caution flag.  Drivers immediately slowed down.  Several drivers went past Ward as he climbed out of his sprint car and began walking down the clay track.  One driver, Regan Smith the driver of No. 14, drove past Ward without incident.

Paul Kinney, who drives No. 19K, told NBC News that he clearly saw Ward on the track and managed to dodge him.  “I seen Kevin clear as day.  Nobody else ran into him either.”

There’s no disputing that Stewart, 3-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, was the most experienced driver on the Canandaigua Motorsport Park track.  So why would witnesses say they saw Stewart throttle his car as he approached Ward?  It was at that moment his vehicle kicked out striking Ward who was dragged underneath Stewart’s car and his body thrown into the air to the horrified screams of onlookers.

In the hours following Ward’s death, Stewart’s racing team manager Greg Zipadelli, said that Stewart was due to race at Watkins Glen on Sunday evening calling the race “business as usual.”

One commenter on Twitter succinctly described the depraved indifference of this reprehensible racing team:  “’Business as usual’ says Tony Stewart’s manager, as if the life of another human being is equivalent to a squirrel.  Beyond repugnant.”

The backlash to the grotesque callousness was blistering.  Hours later, the racing team reversed themselves saying Stewart would not compete in that evening’s event.  They got their shit together and Stewart issued this statement:  “There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.  It’s a very emotional time for all involved.  Our thoughts go out to Kevin’s family and friends during this difficult time.”

After Zipadelli announced Stewart would not race, NASCAR released this statement: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and fellow competitors of Kevin Ward Jr. We support Tony Stewart's decision to miss today's race and we will continue to respect the process and timeline of the local authorities and will continue to monitor this situation moving forward."

On Monday, Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said authorities had obtained a second video, one that offered a different view of the incident.

Today, The New York Post is reporting that Greg Cooper was at the track Saturday evening.  Cooper’s cousin, Alysha Ruggles, was nearly killed by Stewart at Canandaigua last July.  She suffered a fractured back after her car was struck in a 15-car pileup caused by none other than Tony Stewart.  Cooper believes Stewart should be banned from racing.

I was hotter than a match head when I read about Colin Cowherd’s commentary about the tragedy at Canandaigua.
“The sport has a unique culture that I’m not part of.  I’m not a gearhead.  I’m not from the South; I’m not an eye-for-an-eye guy.  There is a certain southern culture, that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, and a lot of NASCAR drivers are from Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, California, Arizona, it’s a southern delicacy.  It doesn’t get ratings anywhere really outside the south…it’s really, really part of the south and it’s an eye-for-an-eye culture.”
Excuse me.

It is widely known that NASCAR’s infamous past is deeply rooted in bootlegging moonshine.  The sport is widely popular in the South and over the last two decades it has expanded nationally.  NASCAR is easily as popular as the NFL 

Cowherd put the fullness of his ignorance on display by disregarding the fact that Ward and Stewart were racing sprint cars; vehicles that are open wheel.  Open wheel racing’s history lies in the Midwest, West and northeastern parts of the country in places like Rossburg, OH; Knoxville, IA; Stockton, CA and Edmonton, Alberta.  Canandaigua is in New York.

I adamantly contend the only connection in the killing of Kevin Ward is that a NASCAR driver was at the wheel when the tragedy happened.

Cowherd is guilty of the unseemly stereotype so many have that willfully condemns the American South to an image of a region of banjo-playing, Bible-thumping inbreeds.  Southerners are church-going, home-owning, childbearing, backyard barbecuing, traffic-jam cursing Americans remarkable in their ordinariness going about their daily lives.

Mr. Cowherd should shut his pie hole.

Any driver tempted to get out of his or her car to confront another on the track should be prevented from doing so.  For Cowherd to imply that this is something unique to southern culture and was the underlying reason for Ward’s death is outlandish.  Whatever point his was attempting to make culminated in a misguided and loathsome insult against southern culture.

What should be remembered in all this is that a young man has lost his life and Tony Stewart should be held accountable for his depraved indifference.  Banning him from racing would be an appropriate beginning and sponsors should avoid him like the plague.

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