Southern California race fans witnessed a bit of Tony Stewart's temperament in 2013 at Auto Club Speedway when he and Joey Logano tangled after the Auto Club 400. Despite his threat to keep the feud going, the emotional outburst quickly passed and no further action resulted.
Yet, that video clip has been played endlessly as the result of Saturday's incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York that claimed the life of sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. when he was hit by Stewart after an on-track crash. Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff Philip Povero is investigating the incident and said it might take two weeks before he turns it over to the district attorney. That's when Stewart finds out his legal fate.
“It would be inappropriate to discuss details or findings of the investigation with the media at this time,” the sheriff's statement said. “I would like to thank everyone for their cooperation as the Ontario County Office of Sheriff continues this investigation and for having patience as we conduct a thorough review of all of the relevant facts involving this tragic accident.”
However, it's not taken long for some changes to be implemented. Ward climbed out of his racer and was attempting to confront Stewart on the track, a dangerous practice that has become common in many series. Had Ward remained by or in his car, he might have escaped being run over in his emotional state.
Several short tracks across the nation promptly created rules specifically about when drivers can exit their cars. NASCAR is also reviewing its policy about exits and behavior, perhaps prompted by Stewart tossing his helmet at Matt Kenseth last year in Bristol, Tenn.
“I think sometimes we just put so many rules in place that it's almost impossible to enforce them all. I don't know what the line is or if this should be a line or an area that needs a rule,” Brad Keselowski said during a teleconference call this week. “I think sometimes we just put so many rules in place that it's almost impossible to enforce them all. I don't know what the line is or if this should be a line or an area that needs a rule, but I'm glad I don't have to make that decision.”
Irwindale Speedway has a strict policy in place regarding such behavior. Not only is it written, it's also reiterated in the pre-race driver's meeting that says in the event of any accident, all drivers are required to stay belted in their cars until they are specifically directed to get out of their machines by the track safety crew. They are also reminded by lowering the safety net if they are OK.
Failure to do so will result in immediate suspension.
Stewart skipped the NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday at Watkins Glen, N.Y., and, according to his team, the decision to race Sunday in Michigan is up to him.
The Verizon IndyCar Series is down to its last three weeks of the season, with the Aug, 30 MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway closing it out. Yet, with races this weekend in Milwaukee and next week in Sonona, 11 drivers are eligible to win the title
James Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball and Justin Wilson dropped out at Mid-Ohio and anyone who trails the points leader by 158 or more after Milwaukee is also out. For the third time in his career, Will Power leads with three races to go in pursuit of his first title.
Power's four-point edge over Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves is the smallest margin between first and second with three races to go since 2009.
Sprint cars have received plenty of attention over the past week and the focus will continue Saturday night as Perris Auto Speedway hosts its annual “California Racer's Hall of Fame Night.” In addition to tributes to some of the sport's biggest stars, the USAC/CRA Sprint Cars return to the half-mile clay oval with a tights points race after a month's absence.
There will be plenty of motivation for the drivers in the featured event. An extra $4,000 has been added to the usual purse, the fast qualifiers will earn $500 more and at least $3,000 has been added in lap money.
Before the race, sprint car standouts Rick Goudy, Eddie Wirth, Don Thomas Sr., Mike Sweeney, Stan Atherton, John Redican, Dennis Rea and Steve Howard will sign autographs. The track will also stage a memorial lap in honor of National Sprint Car Hall of Fame mechanic Bruce Bromme Jr., who passed away. In fact, Hall of Famer driver Jimmy Oskie will be behind the wheel of a Bromme-tuned car that was driven by Bromme's lifelong and late friend Dean Thompson in the 1980s.
Bromme will also have a role in the feature as he was crew chief for Cal Poly Pomona graduate Mike Spencer, who is tied for second place with Nic Faas behind leader Damion Gardner. Of the first six USAC/CRA races at PAS this season, Spencer has won four.
Also on the card are PAS Senior Sprints, PAS Young Gun Sprints and the California Lightning Sprint Cars. First race is 7 p.m.
Several local drivers will attempt to make the field in the first Spears SRL Southwest Tour race since 2010 on Saturday night at Irwindale Speedway. Ryan Partridge (Rancho Cucamonga), Christian McGhee (Ontario), and Toni McCray (Highland) are entered in the 100-lap race Spears Southwest series in addition to Lonnie St.Ours (Upland), Brandon Loverock (Norwalk), Keith Spangler (Chatsworth) and David Ross (Colton). In the Lucas Modified race, 75 laps, the locals will include Linny White (Colton), Jessica Clark (Ventura) and Rod Johnson (Canyon Country). The card will also include Legends and Bandoleros. ... In addition to the usual Friday night lineup of motorcycle racing from PeeWees to the 500cc speedway bikes, Pirate Speedway in San Bernardino will also feature a “Powder Puff Class” for women on minibikes. Racing begins at 8 p.m.