After sprint car driver Kevin Ward and NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart had an altercation on the Canandaigua Motorsports Park track in New York State on August 9, 2014, that put Ward’s car into the wall, Kevin left his car to show his displeasure with Stewart’s actions. After all was said and done, Kevin Ward was left dead on the track after being struck by the rear tire of Tony’s sprint car.
It is not uncommon for drivers to leave the car and shake their fist at a fellow competitor. It is rare that they end up dead. So what happened? The parents of Kevin Ward insist that Tony Stewart purposely swerved towards their son to intimidate him, putting him at risk. Unfortunately, he went too far and ended up running Ward over.
Tony Stewart was found not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing. Now, the Ward family has filed a wrongful death suit in civil court against the NASCAR driver, insisting that he was reckless in his actions. They sat down for an exclusive and emotional interview with ABC News.
According to Sporting News, however, the chances that the Ward family will get the justice they feel they deserve are minimal. To begin with, toxicology reports on Kevin Ward show that he had recently taken marijuana that would have impaired his judgment, as made clear by Peter Bell, a Syracuse law professor.
“The defense is going to say, ‘This kid was running on to a track with cars whizzing by him, he didn’t have any terror, he didn’t have any fear — he was doped up and the only thing he had on his mind was he was going to show Tony Stewart what was what and then he got hit.'”
The Daily Mail reports that the Ward family has a decidedly different take on events.
“We feel Tony acted recklessly. There was six other cars that passed my son while he was on the track. But yet we have the best NASCAR driver in the world sliding his car sideways. I feel he tried to intimidate Kevin and throw dirt at him, but ended up hitting and killing my son.”
Bleacher Report points out that Tony Stewart is known as being a hot head who has blown up at reporters and fellow competitors, even slamming into other competitor’s cars with his, so actions taken to intimidate Kevin Ward would fit his character. At the same time, running towards a vehicle driving at a relatively high speed, as Kevin Ward did, is a suicidal action in itself.
The Ward family does appear to be realistic. They aren’t saying that Tony was intentionally out to murder their son, but his recklessness makes him responsible, according to USA Today.
“I wish he hadn’t gotten out of the car, more than anybody. But I also acknowledge the fact that if Tony would have stayed low on the track and not gunned his engine and headed for my son, my son would still be here.”
In the wake of the Kevin Ward incident, NASCAR has implemented clear rules against leaving a car on the track or approaching other cars. Although the Kevin Ward incident did not happen at a NASCAR-sanctioned event, NASCAR decided it was time to formalize rules to prevent tragedies like this happening at any NASCAR-sanctioned tracks. Drivers, upon being instructed to leave a vehicle must follow directions as where they should go, according NASCAR’s vice president of competition and racing development, as reported in the Globe and Mail.
“Really, we’re formalizing rules that have been there. It’s reminders that take place during drivers meetings with drivers about on-track accidents. We’re just formalizing this and it’s something that we worked on this week.”
By filing this wrongful death lawsuit, it is the final opportunity for the Ward family to get justice for the death of Kevin Ward.
[Photo from Richard Barnes/Getty Images]