In a Motorsport.com exclusive, Kenny Wallace talks about the tragedy that claimed the life of Kevin Ward Jr.
Short tracks across America are making changes following the premature death of Kevin Ward Jr. on Saturday evening at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York. In an accident involving NASCAR Sprint Cup star Tony Stewart and Ward, the 20-year-old Sprint Car racer exited his car onto the track during the caution laps. Evidently, Stewart’s vehicle hit Ward; tossing him several feet across the surface.
Stewart, a three-time champion at NASCAR’s top-tier rank, missed the race at Watkins Glen International on Sunday afternoon. He will also miss Michigan this weekend and his future is uncertain.
It’s hard for me to answer why drivers do what they do.
Multiple tracks such as of Brewerton, Fulton, Kingsport, Tr-City, and others have already made rule changes after this tragic series of events. Stewart has owned Macon Speedway with Kenny Wallace, Ken Schrader and Bob Sargent since 2007. In wake of this incident, the track will be making several changes in the coming weeks.
Wallace talks new rules at track he, Stewart, Schrader, and Sargent own
“Even our local track that myself, Tony Stewart, Kenny Schrader and Bob Sargent own, are going to make a policy,” Wallace said. “Everybody is just trying to figure out what they want to do. if you are in a heat race and you get out of your car, you should be done for the night. If you are in the feature, which is the last race of the night, if you wreck out and get out of the car and walk on the race track; you should forfeit your money and points from that night.”
“If you do it again, you should be suspended for a race. Basically, the detail of it should be; if you wreck out, the driver should stay buckled in the car until the workers get there and deem everything is safe. You could also do it hardcore. If you wreck out and everything is good, just stay in the car and let them tow you back to the pits. Either way, everybody’s (rule) is going to be a little bit different. The bottom line is – just stop the driver’s feet from hitting the surface of the race track.”
The .25-mile speedway located in Illinois has seen multiple changes since the group of NASCAR drivers took over. These changes included ones that improved safety for fans and drivers such as new catch-fences throughout the track. Although Wallace hopes a rule change will work, he has seen drivers at their best and worst over the course of his career.
...Guy grabbed a jack handle and beat the other guy upside the head, knocking him out. If it weren’t for some other people, the guy was going to kill him over a door donut mark on the car."
Kenny Wallace on what he witnessed at Tri-City Speedway
“It’s hard for me to answer why drivers do what they do. I’ve seen the worst tragedy in motor racing history. About two months ago at Tri-State Speedway, a couple of guys got together in a little hiccup; they just rubbed the doors,” he said. “They headed back to the pit area, and the guy grabbed the jack handle and beat the other guy upside the head, knocking him out. If it weren’t for some other people, the guy was going to kill him over a door donut mark on the car. I think that a lot of these people, they take out mortgages on their homes and they’re borrowing money on their race cars, and they are just going overboard. Why that guy wanted to take a jack handle and beat Brian Shaw on the head is beyond me now-a-days.”
I know if that happened to me, I would need professional therapy
Kenny Wallace on Tony Stewart
For Wallace, a close friend to Stewart, it has been a rough few days. He has been asked to voice his opinion on multiple occasions about the tragic incident. But with the pain comes a learning experience. He compared Ward’s passing to that of Dale Earnhardt Sr. back in 2001. With his death came safety innovations like no other sport including the likes of the HANS device head/neck restraint, SAFER barriers, foam on the driver’s side door and many other things that have saved the lives of racers in NASCAR time and time again.
Since the accident, Wallace has attempted to communicate with Stewart. As the main stream media continues to stampede on Stewart’s past experiences, both good and bad, he is going through an emotional roller coaster. With the exception of a small statement in the midst of the Cup Series event on Sunday, he has been incredibly quiet. He did not respond to Wallace, yet that’s okay because he knows how tough it must be on the 43-year-old.
“I don’t have any advice. I’ll leave that up to the professionals. I know if that happened to me, I would need professional therapy. I would have to go away from a while and just go somewhere and get it right because right now; I know how bad he feels,” Wallace said.
As time moves forward, Stewart might not break his silence for several weeks. Whatever Stewart opts to do, he will have the support of Wallace and his fellow NASCAR peers.