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Monday, August 11, 2014

The emotional ride of a NASCAR fan

Following the harrowing news about Tony Stewart striking and killing fellow Sprint car driver Kevin Ward, Jr. Saturday night, I felt distracted as my husband and I settled in to watch Sunday's road course race at Watkins Glen. Then when Ryan Newman was involved in that scary crash, I lost all focus. After the lengthy red flag condition, I considered not even finishing the rest of the race. I'm so glad I did because it was positively joyous to watch A. J. Allmendinger battle for the win.

Tony Stewart is responsible for the death of a young man

No matter what the circumstances, a young, vital person, a mother's son, is dead. I can not imagine how horrifying it had to be to watch that happen. I know nothing of this young man. I don't follow the sport, but that doesn't lessen the sadness I feel for this young man's family.

While Tony Stewart may be responsible for the death of this young driver, and any official conclusion remains to be seen, I can't help but think about what Tony may be feeling. No matter what the circumstances, Tony will have to live with the knowledge that he was involved in an incident that resulted in someone's death. That is a monumental burden to carry for a lifetime. Even in the short term, Stewart has no control over his own life. The uncertainty of what may happen because of this--possible criminal or civil charges--has to be suffocating. And it could go on for months, years. Therefore, my heart goes out to him. One moment will undoubtedly, change him forever. That moment Kevin Ward got out of his race car, certainly changed everything.

Responsibility dictates that we must all be cognizant of the potential of our actions.

I don't know Tony Stewart personally, but from what I have seen and observed over years of watching, reading, and learning, I find it impossible to believe that Tony Stewart intended to harm anyone. I hate that so many people--people who don't know any more about him or the facts surrounding this incident than I do--are saying such horrible, judgmental things. It is fine to have an opinion, but only when all the facts are known.

Ryan Newman's wreck was scary

It was reported that Newman said hitting the wall paled in comparison to his being slammed by Michael McDowell. That was obviously a hard hit because it sent McDowell flying. It was so good to see Newman get out of his mangled race car and walk away on his own power.

I also enjoyed his speaking out about the barriers at the race track. Someone has to speak out about such things. No one else seems to have the chops to open their mouths. Many of the other drivers agreed with him, but not as blatantly. It was a little disingenuous for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to bring up the cost factor of creating safer barriers. Of course it would be costly, but NASCAR can certainly afford it. How many track owners receive public money as incentives to upgrade their facilities? How big is the tax break owners get as compared to the ticket holders who scrape together enough coin for a ticket or merchandise? NASCAR always preaches about safety, so perhaps they should put their money where there mouths are by leaning on track owners to make necessary improvements. I don't care if there is just one race per year Kerry Tharp, NASCAR Director of Competition. Cars can race at any track in the country. Only the best and safest should host racing events. If a track doesn't want to spend the money, go someplace else!

I wonder if Newman will be fined for speaking out, as he was not long ago, when he was critical of the safety issues at Talladega. He had a microphone shoved in his face minutes after flying through the air and landing on his roof? NASCAR wrongly criticized and penalized him for 'harming the brand.' Newman was right; NASCAR was wrong. At the same time they criticized Newman, they approved the use of an added safety feature--the Forward Roof Bar--which has been added to the roll cage that failed in Newman's crash. It has been nicknamed the Newman bar.

The best part, and perhaps only good part of the weekend's racing was when A. J. Allmendinger battled Marcos Ambros to win the first Sprint Cup race of his career. Seeing that young man with all his enthusiasm take the checkered flag and celebrate his win was the way winning a race is supposed to be. It was good, clean, exciting, and just plain exhilarating. That may have something to do with A. J. himself. He takes nothing for granted, has fought hard to get to the top, and is just plain deserving. I feel a little sad for Ambrose, since he ran such a great race, but A.J., the underdog; well, it just was a good win.