The NASCAR Sprint Cup series is going to Michigan this weekend, a pivotal race for drivers trying to make a late charge with only four races left before the Chase.
But that is taking a back seat this weekend. And rightfully so.
All the talk in the racing world is centered on Tony Stewart and the fatal accident he was involved in Saturday when he hit and killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. during a dirt track race in New York.
“Certainly a lot of emotion charged on this topic, which is good in the sense that people care,” Brad Keselowski said during a news conference earlier this week.
“I don’t want to understate that. But it’s obviously still very, very tragic and still very, very fresh … a raw wound.”
Said Greg Biffle: “Let’s face it, it’s a tough situation altogether. … Unfortunately, accidents happen. No matter what, accidents happen and we have to — at some point we have to move on. It’s a tragedy for the Ward family and everyone involved.”
The question now becomes how something like this doesn’t happen again.
Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage said this week that drivers need to stop climbing out of their cars and putting themselves in danger after getting into a wreck.
Ward did so after he thought Stewart drove him into the wall and wanted to let his feelings be known by waving his arms at Stewart. That put both him and Stewart in a vulnerable position.
And it’s become far too common to see it happen on every level of the sport.
During a Nationwide race at Kansas last year, Keselowski ran across the infield and up pit road as cars were coming down so he could confront Kyle Busch after a wreck. It’s fortunate nothing happened, although Keselowski wasn’t sure if rules need to be in place to prevent such incidents from happening.
“I don’t know what the line is or if there should be a line or an area that needs a rule,” Keselowski said. “Man, I’m glad I don’t have to make that decision.
“The dust has to settle before anyone can have really a full opinion on it. For me personally, have some respect to the family, get through their process, then kind of dig into the hows, whys, whats, how we can possibly prevent something like that happening in the future?”
As Gossage said, the hope is that drivers at the top levels stop doing it. All the younger drivers tend to emulate the pros, which might be why a tragic accident like Saturday’s happened.
“It just means I’ve been running too many races. But, I’m excited about it. It’s obviously a bit of a milestone whether you run just Cup races and reach 500 or whether you run all three and you reach 500. There’s been a lot of success in between those 500 starts and yet some heartache as well.” — Kyle Busch, who will make his 500th start in a Toyota during the truck race at Michigan