During a sprint car event last week on Saturday night at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, Kevin Ward Jr. was spun out by Tony Stewart. He then got out of his car to display his displeasure, when Stewart’s car would make contact with Ward, sending him sliding across the track. Kevin Ward Jr. would be transported to hospital, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.
Since then, there has been a lot of media coverage with regards to the incident and Stewart’s future – some positive, and some not so positive.
Jeff Burton, who filled in for Stewart behind the wheel of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, says that it’s disappointing to hear the speculations discussed as you’re dealing with real people and their feelings.
“At the end of the day these are real people, that are human beings and have feelings and I think a lot of times we forget that,” Burton commented. “We talk about people like they are robots and they are not they are human beings. Just listening to some of the misinformation and people speculating about stuff, I just thought it was a travesty in a lot of ways. Ultimately all that really weighed on me, knowing that we had two families, at least two families just in agonizing pain and really not being able to do anything about it.”
Part of Burton’s comments stemmed to how mainstream media outlets were referencing Stewart’s past incidents of anger, whether throwing helmet or physical, but not addressing the side of him that everybody in the garage area knows.
“Tony doesn’t beat his chest and talk about the things he does for people. We know it, we see it, but nobody else does,” Burton said. “(Dale) Earnhardt (Sr.) was like that, Earnhardt didn’t want anybody to know they things he did for people. That is how Tony is and that is something a lot of people they only know Tony because he threw a helmet. They only know Tony because he got mad. Well hell I get mad too. I just hate people jump to conclusions.”
Burton sentiments were echoed by Kevin Harvick, who drives the No. 4 Jimmy John Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing.
“I know for sure that Tony Stewart is not going to run over somebody that’s on a racetrack. I don’t think there’s anybody in this garage that would. It would be hard to find somebody in the racing world that could point that car, just run somebody over,” Harvick commented. “You have just a lot of unknowledgeable people reporting on a situation that know absolutely nothing about racing. It’s just really unfortunate, the perception that has been given to him.
“I know he’ll stay strong and fight and he’ll get the right people and do all the right things. That’s the part that’s bothered me the most, is just the poor misrepresentation on the media side for him.”
Despite everything that is going on, Harvick brought home a second place finish for SHR while Kurt Busch was racing for the lead in the late going with Joey Logano when he would make contact with the wall, finishing 31st. Burton saw his day come to an early end, though, after electrical problems sent him behind the wall at lap 82.
“I think everybody has stepped up and did what they’ve had to do inside the shop,” Harvick said. “You know Brett Frood is at the racetrack making sure that everything’s right. Gene Haas was there last weekend. Everybody just has to pitch in and do their part, make sure we do everything we can to help Tony get through his situation.
“There’s a lot of strong people at our company. Gene brings a lot to the table from a financial standpoint, being a leader. There’s a lot of great sponsors that are there that are very supportive of everything we’re doing.
“I think it’s added more fire to everybody just to step up and keep everything headed in the right direction.”