Tag Archives: NASCAR

Hard Times in a Hard World



Oftentimes, life has a way of being self-policing and self-punishing.

It’s like when a little kid sees a freshly baked batch of cookies on a hot oven tray and reaches out to grab one even though mommy and daddy already said no. In such a situation, no parent in their right mind is going to take the time to add a spanking to an already burnt hand. The child learned the lesson the hard way.

If you’ve followed sports news (or news in general for that matter) over the past 48 hours, then there is a good chance that you have heard about the famed race car driver, Tony Stewart, striking and killing a fellow driver with his race car. Moments before, the two drivers found themselves racing side-by-side, Stewart on the inside, Kevin Ward jr. on the outside. Coming off of the corner, Ward got squeezed into the wall, cut a tire, and came to a stop. The caution flag waved and Ward got out of his vehicle and waited for Stewart to come by in order to show his displeasure with his fellow racer. As Stewart drove by, his car hit and killed Ward.

The investigation is ongoing and while there are currently no criminal charges pending, many are suspecting and calling for Stewart to be charged with manslaughter or even accidental homicide.

Now, I’m not a lawyer so I don’t know much about the in’s and out’s of what qualifies as manslaughter. However, I am a racing fan and I can give you my perspective of what happened. Regrettably, I did watch video of the incident and I truly wish that I had not. (If you really want to see it, you can find it on YouTube but I will not post it here — viewer discretion advised.) I do not presume to know all the facts but from what I have read and seen, this is what I gather:

Some people question why Ward got out of his vehicle onto a track with moving race cars (even though they were under caution). Yet, this happens literally all the time in racing. In fact, it happened in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race just a few hours earlier and a couple of towns over from where the Stewart/Ward incident took place. Probably every race car driver has done that at one point or another. When you get wrecked, one way to show your displeasure is to wait for the field to come around the track and point at them to let them know you are unhappy (many drivers will wait and throw things at their competitors — like a helmet or their gloves). This happens all the time. Is it a wise decision to make? Probably not. But you cannot fault Ward for what happened.

Now, for Stewart. Some say that Stewart gunned the throttle right before he went by Ward (which might make him look more guilty). In a dirt sprint car, hitting the throttle causes the rear of the car to slide out to the right. It also causes dirt to fly up to that side of the vehicle. Now, Tony is undoubtedly a hothead with a well reported temper. It would not surprise me one bit if Stewart saw Ward standing there and he decided, as he went by,  to give his competitor a little mud-bath. Much like Ward’s move of getting out of his vehicle to show Stewart his displeasure, Stewart’s throttling up would have been just another way of nonverbal communication that is not uncommon in motorsports. I am not saying that is what Tony did — I wasn’t there. That is just possibly what happened based on what I’ve seen and read.

So, what we have here are two common, though probably unwise, maneuvers that resulted in absolute tragedy. Had Ward been a little bit further back or had Stewart timed his throttling a little differently, no one other than the fans there that night would have known what had happened; which would have just been another mild case of racers losing their tempers. Unfortunately, that is not the situation.

My heart mourns for the Ward family and I have been praying for them ever since I heard about what happened. At the end of the day, what we cannot lose sight of is that a young man has lost his life and there is a family who is mourning.

But I guarantee you, Tony Stewart is also mourning. What happened Saturday night changed his life forever and not in a good way. He was scheduled to run the NASCAR race yesterday — he backed out. That is hard move for a race car driver to make. And even though I have never been a fan of his, I can tell you that there is not a single person on this planet who loves racing more than Tony Stewart. He did not back out of that race (or any other future races) lightly. Some people see Stewart as a murderer who needs jail time as punishment for his crime. I see a man who is deeply wounded and doesn’t need to be kicked when he’s down.

See, some events in life are self policing. Who knows, maybe by the rule of law Tony Stewart did commit manslaughter. But don’t you think that the guilt that he is going to carry for the rest of his life is more than punishment enough? He will never be the same person he was before that race on Saturday night. He will always question everything about those moments and about himself.

Life is oftentimes self-punishing and the last thing that man needs right now is to be put on trial.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Ward family. But I also pray for Tony Stewart and for justice to be served (which may mean leaving the legal system out of it).



Dreams Come True

Dreams Come True

For those who have met me, probably one of the first things that you learned about me was that I love auto racing. Yep, I love watching cars go fast in circles. For as long as I can remember, I have been a die hard fan of NASCAR as well as other forms of motorsports such as sprint car racing and Formula 1. It is one of the things that I am most passionate about.

The best way that I can explain it is this: What little boy does not think that race cars are cool? What little boy does not want to be a race car driver? For me, I just never grew out of that phase. I fell in love with racing when I was first taken to the local dirt track and, as they say, the rest is history.

For years, if you were to ask me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would have told you very matter-of-factly, “I’m going to be a NASCAR driver”.

Yet, as I grew older, that dream never became a reality. My parents did not have the money nor know-how to ever put me behind the wheel. Besides, my life’s calling was elsewhere. So, somewhere along the way, I gave up on that dream despite the fact that my love for motorsports nor my desire to climb behind the wheel never decreased. And for 22 years, I never drove a race car.

That is, until last Friday night.

The local race track has a race that they do once a year: “The Preacher Feature to Find the Faster Pastor”. The administrative pastor at my church signed up and let me know that there were more spots open. Being a licensed minister, I was eligible. The track organized a ride for me and on Friday night I suited up and climbed behind the wheel to run my first race.972241_10152076849743332_120595216_n

No, I did not climb in to an 800 horsepower sprint car. It was what you might call a “hornet” or a mini hobby stock. Basically, a compact, 4-cylindar street car that has been transformed into a “race car”. Still, I got to hold the petal to the medal and race wheel to wheel on the track.

As far as the actual race, I unfortunately cannot tell you that I drove into victory lane; however, I can say that I had some of the most fun that I have ever had.

Nope, I did not grab victory or even a podium in my race, it was a far cry from that. I started third in the main event and struggled to find a rhythm as I found myself sliding back in the pack. More than once I began sliding through the corners on the verge of wrecking. When the first caution came out, I knew that I was in trouble. I tried to calm down and think about what I was doing and think about how I could improve my lap times. It was time for me to take advantage of the countless hours of racing that I had watched over the course of my life.

When the green flag waved again, I changed my line and became one of the faster cars on the track. I began moving up to the fifth position and was ready to pounce on the third and fourth place cars.  Then, they got side by side and almost wrecked down the front stretch forcing me to back off to ensure that all three 969031_10153052025380720_983841822_nof us didn’t wad up our borrowed cars.

On the final lap, I was able to overtake one more car to cross the line fourth — one spot off the podium.

I may not have won, but I let out a victorious scream as I crossed the finish line. After all, I had a blast, worked hard and finished in the top-five, and made and aggressive last lap pass — what more could I want in my first start.

This was certainly a far cry from my dream of becoming a NASCAR champion as a little boy. Still, I cannot be more excited about fulfilling my dream of driving a race. Besides, something tells me this won’t be my last.

I told Amanda, my fiancee, after the race — as soon as we get a little extra money, we’re buying one of these cars and going racin’!

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