As of now, the Ontario County sheriff in upstate New York doesn't expect to file charges against NASCAR's Tony Stewart after he struck and killed a fellow driver at a dirt-track event Saturday night, reports the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. The investigation is continuing into the death of 20-year-old Kevin Ward, but the sheriff says he sees nothing to suggest that Stewart acted criminally. However, he's again asking that witnesses send in whatever photos and videos they have, reports the AP. Investigators also are reconstructing the accident, taking into account track conditions and the dim lighting. In the incident, Stewart sent Ward's car spinning into the wall, and Ward then walked onto the track to confront Stewart. Though one car swerved to avoid Ward, Stewart fishtailed into him. Ward's actions may sound nuts to non-racing fans, but as the New York Times reports, it's not that uncommon.
In fact, Stewart himself did much the same in incidents in 2012 and 1999. Ward's death has triggered a debate about the macho culture of racing, and one quote from driver Tyler Graves in Sporting News is getting heavy traction:
- "I know Tony could see him. I know how you can see out of these cars. When Tony got close to him, he hit the throttle. When you hit a throttle on a sprint car, the car sets sideways. It set sideways, the right rear tire hit Kevin, Kevin was sucked underneath and was stuck under it for a second or two, and then it threw him about 50 yards."
Sure, racing deaths happen, but this is "unprecedented" in that it "arose from the event, and transpired in the middle of the contest," writes John Walters at Newsweek
. He says it's "ridiculous" to think that Stewart meant to hurt Ward, but he adds that neither driver "exercised enough caution." Both he and Mike Lupica at the Daily News
use the phrase "road rage" in their write-ups. The question for prosecutors is whether Stewart deserves any punishment.