General Question

pleiades's avatar

When will Tony Stewart be prosecuted for murder?

Asked by pleiades (6571points) August 17th, 2014

All the evidence points to Tony Stewart having purposely hit the young man in that rally.

1. Yellow flags, every driver must drop to 40mph
2. The slower everyone is going, even at night, the track is as light as day at such slow speeds, these drivers are extremely skilled and trained to look far ahead when driving, easily he saw the young man.
3. Tony Stewart has a track record of being a hot head, a pretty solid list at that.
4. Tony Stewart at the same event injured another young driver, at this point he’s a serial offender in these amateur leagues. Think of the skill set of Robinson Cano going down to Double A baseball, or Tom Brady going down to college football to play some amateurs that is the equivalent of Stewards skillset to what he went down to for “fun.” (Ok #4 isn’t necessarily evidence but track record should count for something)
5. This one takes the cake, it is confirmed that Stewart throttled before he struck the young man and you can hear it clear as a bell

It’s amazing how the blue car just before Stewart clearly slowed down and was as far away as possible from the young man and Stewart seems to go plow into him.

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34 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t see how. I feel badly for him. The other driver got out of his car and walked on the track! My husband races and they are instructed not to leave their cars unless told it is safe and certainly not to walk onto the track. Drivers are not expecting someone to be walking on the track, it would be easy to miss the person on the road or to not be able to stop in time. The driver who was killed was a hot head too. He lost his common sense being pissed off, and put himself in grave danger.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Not saying one way or another, but the guy who got hit was kinda an idiot for walking out into the middle of the track and standing there like he expected someone to stop and pick him up…..

johnpowell's avatar

40 MPH on a dirt track is still really fast. You don’t have a lot of grip. I wouldn’t doubt that Tony Stewart was fucking with the guy. Something like spraying him with dirt. But since we can’t get inside the dudes head we don’t know the motive.

I have been snowboarding and sprayed a friend with snow to make them fall. In hindsight they could have hit a tree and broke their neck. Not my intent, just bad judgement on my part.

But I wouldn’t be upset if Tony Stewart was never allowed to race for money again.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Perhaps when he actually commits murder. I can tell from the OP’s post he doesn’t understand much about racing.

jerv's avatar

First off, any driver who leaves a non-burning vehicle and wanders into traffic is negligent at best. The fact that Ward went onto the track in the first place implies possible suicide.

Regarding point #2, sprint cars are a different beast from NASCAR. If you don’t believe me, then you are saying that your drivers license proves you are proficient with driving 18-wheelers, bulldozers, and any other land vehicle. While Tony Stewart is proficient in sprint cars, it’s not his specialty; a black belt in Aikido doesn’t mean you have mastered Karate. In fact, that is why he seems a little accident-prone in sprint cars.

Regarding #5, sprint cars are nothing like regular cars either. Read this. Hell, I’ll cite the relevant part here so y’all don’t have to follow the link;

“JJ Yeley, a NASCAR driver who has driven sprint cars for Stewart, told the Sporting News that the fact you can hear Stewart hit the gas in his car prior to hitting Ward should be taken into the context of how sprint cars operate.

“They have a solid rear axle, they don’t turn on a dime,” Yeley said. “You usually turn those cars with the gas*. … They don’t just turn as soon as you turn the wheel. It does take the throttle to do that.”

Yeley said that if Stewart would have turned the wheel sharply without getting on the throttle, the car would have continued in the path it was going or would have spun. He compared it to riding a jetski, where throttle is needed when making a turn.

“The right side wing panel comes down sometimes below your eye level so you will have a blind spot. … There’s a part there where you wouldn’t see someone if they jumped out and got that close to the car,” Yeley said.”

Your point #5 proves that you are utterly ignorant about the differences between a sprint car and a passenger car. Let me reiterate….

”...if Stewart would have turned the wheel sharply without getting on the throttle, the car would have continued in the path it was going or would have spun.”

Oval track racing has a motto; “Turning right to go left”. Do you know why that is? It’s because they steer nothing like a normal car; you control their rotation with the gas pedal more than the steering wheel. If you ever drove a massively overpowered RWD car with a locked diff, you would know that.

You would also know about the wings and their resulting blind spot.

So we have a kid disobeying safety regulations to get into the blindspot of a car that can only swerve by stomping the gas pedal. We also have a bunch of people thinking that these cars are like a regular car.

Lastly, we have a thing called “due process”. There isn’t enough to prove “probable cause”. There is not enough concrete evidence to even file charges, and definitely nowhere near enough to hold a trial.

@Darth_Algar You don’t need to understand anything when you are biased.

elbanditoroso's avatar

At worst it’s manslaughter, not murder. And even then it’s a tenuous case. See all the comments above.

With that said, there ought to be some sanctions or punishments placed on Stewart. It would be improper if he got away with this with no repercussions at all (other than not running the NASCAR Sprint Cup the last two weeks).

And the bigger-picture rule ought to be that pro drivers shouldn’t be driving in amateru competitions.

jerv's avatar

@elbanditoroso Well, it could be argued that pro football players should never play baseball either, but we’ll leave the Pro/Amateur debate for another time. Suffice it to say that knowing how to drive in one series doesn’t make you a pro in all motorsports.

JLeslie's avatar

@elbanditoroso. Pros race in nonpro races all the time.

If I remember correctly Tony caused the crash to begin with. The amateur racing my husband does any time cars hit the racers are supposed to come in. If they don’t they get red flagged to come in. I don’t know the rules of this specific type of racing. If the rules are similar Tony was already in trouble with the officials for circling the track again I would think. That alone can get him suspended for a while. Hitting another car in the racing my husband does easily puts you on probation for 13 months.

I’m sure he is tortured by what happened.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Never. @jerv already pointed out how Sprint car handling is different from a normal car. You steer with controlled sliding.
Here is an additional point. Look at the attached picture of Kevin Ward next to his car . You can see that the wings are significantly taller than he is. A car in front and to the side will block the vision of a driver behind. From the video you can see the 45 car was higher in the turn and would have been to in front and to the right of Stewart. Kevin waited until 45 went by and continued down toward the center of the track to point at Stewart. He would have been blocked from Stewart’s view by 45’s air foils until the last instant. You can hear Stewart rev the engine to turn. When you consider the speed of sound and that the viewer taking the video was probably 500 feet away at best, the sound will lag the video by about 0.5 seconds. That means Stewart reacted even faster than we see/hear. His reaction time was incredibly fast but he could not avoid Ward. Sadly the Laws of Physics are hard to beat.

Stay in the car unless it is on fire. That is where all the other drivers are looking.

zenvelo's avatar

We had a discussion last week about murder vs. manslaughter vs. other ways to criminally define death of a human as a result of the actions of another.

With that, and having watched the video and also being a little familiar with sprint cars, Stewart was the proximate cause of Ward’s death. Yes, the kid should not have been out of his car, and I don’t believe Stewart meant to do much more than scare him. Yet his action to scare Ward caused his death.

To answer the question, it all depends on the District Attorney and a Grand Jury. I don’t see him being arrested by law enforcement without an indictment. DA’s and Grand Juries are much more likely to charge him though; I’d expect him to be indicted by October for Vehicular Manslaughter.

jerv's avatar

@zenvelo Except that even entering motorsports is an assumption of risk, and more importantly Ward leaving his vehicle and walking where he did pretty much clears Stewart. Do you know why so many Russian drivers have dashcams? When a pedestrian goes into traffic and gets hit, whose fault is it? Not always the driver.

As for the 40mph, I was going slower than that when I was injured enough to be out of work for a month despite being inside my car with seat belts and everything. Had Stewart been going excessively fast, he would’ve rear-ended someone real quick. No, you don’t need to be going fast to kill someone with a car. Physics says so.

LuckyGuy's avatar

The police have requested videos from fans in the stands. I am guessing here, but it is likely they received many – from just as many points of view.
Stewart is a professional and would not do something stupid to “scare another driver” especially when he knows every millisecond he’s on the track is being watched and recorded.
With all that professional and amateur video coverage it will take a little time to produce an accurate recreation but I’m confident they will. Until that is complete all we have is speculation. Patience.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Probably when he commits a crime. You have an idiot in a black driving suit in poor lighting walking into the grove and then stepping out right after another car almost hits him. I’m guessing Stewart never saw him until it was too late and he tried to miss him. You don’t steer a sprint car with the front wheels. They just control the angle of the car.

zenvelo's avatar

@LuckyGuy He may be a ‘professional” because he makes money that way, but as noted above he is a known hot head who cannot control his emotions. As to professional behavior, he knows how to professionally handle a sprint car, too.

@jerv It is demonstrated from the videos that Ward could have been avoided (other drivers did). I’m not saying Stewart intended to kill Ward, but his reckless behavior did.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Walking into the grove? That was supposed to be groove.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@zenvelo When the videos are analyzed we will see. In the meantime, want to make a friendly wager of a cup of coffee on it? You say he will, I say he won’t. Deal? ;-)

zenvelo's avatar

@LuckyGuy Deal, he gets charged. Conviction is a whole ‘nother matter.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@zenvelo So I see we both agree that conviction is off the table.
OK.. I’ll take the bet. I say he will not be charged with murder.

And it has to be a fancy coffee with some kind of humorous or trendy name for the bean and topped with a squirt of whipped cream or fat free equivalent on the top.

Darth_Algar's avatar

I love the “known hothead” meme. ¾ths of the drivers out there are hotheads. You might not see it in NASCAR so much anymore because NASCAR, in their efforts to appeal to milquetoast suburban America, pretty much punishes any driver who shows any hint of human emotion, but it’s there nonetheless. It takes a certain amount of hot headedness to be competitive.

zenvelo's avatar

@Darth_Algar That may be the truth of NASCAR proficiency, but not of Formula 1 or Indie Car.

Darth_Algar's avatar


Must be why Tony Stewart wasn’t competitive when he drove in the IRL. Oh wait…..

jerv's avatar

@zenvelo Ward didn’t run out in front of the other cars though. Look again; he waited on the sides for Stewart. The other cars avoided him because he hadn’t run into the travel lane yet.

Dutchess_III's avatar

“Criminal charges are unlikely…” From this article.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Most race car drivers are hotheads. They are fiercely competitive. I should know. I’m married to one.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I was just reading a news article about Ed Carpenter’s thoughts about this. He pointed out how big the wing is on the right side of a sprint car. They’re huge, because that’s the side facing out.. He said Stewart probably never saw anything out of the right side of the car until it was too late. Anyone that says he was trying to scare him or playing games doesn’t know anything about these cars.

pleiades's avatar

First off I wanted to say I respect the opposing sides opinions. I don’t know why some of you have chosen to personally attack me (@darth_algar) but this seems to be a reoccurring theme with you against me.

@Darth_Algar I don’t understand racing? What’s that got to do with sportsmanship? What you’re insinuating is “getting clipped” comes with the territory am I correct? Ok I get that. And I understand it’s some stupid macho thing flex ones muscle against another in those sort of situations. Why couldn’t Stewart, the “professional” he is be the more experienced one in the situation and not have to show the young man up?

@jerv Biased? I’m willing to lean over into the opposing side of my argument. I’ll even go as far as to say, yeah it wasn’t murder, I agree it wasn’t intentional to kill him. But I wouldn’t so much as say it wasn’t a complete accident. The two parties are at fault but the man in the machine has the leverage in this situation and been more responsible. That young man was indeed a moron to get out and onto the track, clearly he wanted to have some sort of altercation, and that was wrong, but two wrongs don’t negate what the evidence of the throttling and wheel jerk reveal (I didn’t see any other driver jerk the wheel on that turn where Ward was walking)

Just blew up your biased statement

Regarding your #2 rebuttle. Ok I’ll give you that. I’ll give you the fact that within this particular realm of racing it’s worlds apart from NASCAR. You can have that. But Stewart is a little over double the age of Ward Jr. Shouldn’t age and experience play some sort of role in moral judgement here? I mean for crying out loud, he already spun the young man off course. Did he really have to spray dirt in his face? I’ve played sports and video games against these type of “tough” mentality people and I have to say they aren’t in it for the sport so much as they are in it for their own personal ego boost. Haven’t seen this mentality not so much in football or basketball but more in tennis and an online game called Star Craft. Essentially its adding insult to injury, running the score up, to show the other who’s the alpha. Of course that’s my perspective from seeing how the blue car just before Stewarts car seemed slower and more toward the inner track. Also I’m also well aware of the blind spot the wings pose for these vehicles I still don’t believe Stewarts vision was affected by the wings on a circle track with as much experience he has. Call me utterly ignorant as you want, doesn’t change the fact that Stewart was driving the vehicle that hit and killed Ward Jr.

I’ve presented my argument on how I believe he was purposefully hit and I’ve read your counter arguments, it doesn’t mean I’m utterly ignorant. I bet it pisses you off that people like me will argue and even be willing to negotiate and stand on your side of the argument time to time huh? I posted this on Fluther hoping for a healthy discussion but to call someone utterly ignorant, that’s just going overboard as if I wasn’t willing to freely discuss this. Yes this is the internet, and people type answers. It doesn’t mean it’s 100% concrete.

I don’t know man I used to respect the way you enlightened me. But now I see that you combine your answers with a definitiveness that tries to make others feel stupid. I’m done with Fluther for tonight. I’m tired of being put down for trying to have open discussion. I mean yeah, I have my question and OP up there and it does have a stance, but maybe instead of calling me stupid, you could have explained how I presented everything it a bit nicer. I don’t know why it got to be such a personal level, that’s the main draw with Fluther, the community feel. But when you try to oust someone who’s genuinely curious like me, you lose some good people around here. And that’s exactly why I hate the GA function. I feel like those who GA’d thinks I’m a fucking idiot now just because I’m anti-Stewart in this situation and apparently I’m an utterly ignorant jelly. I guess I shouldn’t participate here then.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t know if this will make you feel better, but ignorant is probably not used by @jerv to mean stupid (I don’t use ignorant synonymously with stupid) but I do agree some responses were overly harsh and condescending.

I can’t let my mind go to any driver purposely doing something to another driver after an accident has happened. It’s so viscous and risky it just is hard for me to wrap my head around it. Once the car is crashed or off the track I can’t imagine a racer wanting to do more to hurt that person.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@pleiades “Also I’m also well aware of the blind spot the wings pose for these vehicles I still don’t believe Stewarts vision was affected by the wings on a circle track with as much experience he has.”

Case in point about the lack of understanding I mentioned. Or perhaps you believe that Stewart’s experience has somehow granted him the supernatural ability to see through the physical substance of the wing.

jerv's avatar

You have no iđea how to steer a sprint car; it’s nothing like a regular car. The wheel jerk and throttle blip are the only way to change direction. Reread the bold section from a professional third-party. Having driven vehicles with lockers before, I know that to be true,but figured you wouldn’t take my word for it.

Yes, Stewart killed a kid dressed in black who ran into his blind spot. I won’t deny that. What I refute is any sort of intent on Stewart’s part. Any altercation between them was relatively minor; the sort of thing settled with shouting and possibly fists, but never with deadly force, or even reckless endangerment.

I’m sorry that I come across a bit harsh, but I’m a plain-spoken man with strong opinions on some things. It’s easy for me to forget that what’s obvious or instinctive to me isn’t so well-known to others. But @JLeslie is correct about my use of “ignorant” there.

zenvelo's avatar


Your second paragraph right above is the crux of the whole issue, and will determine if he gets charged, and if so if he will be found guilty:

“What I refute is any sort of intent on Stewart’s part.”

We disagree if there was intent of any sort on Stewart’s part.

My viewing of the video leads me to believe a driver of his experience under a yellow caution would have been able to avoid the kid or anyone else on the track to assist with the wreck. A District Attorney will need to evaluate the same evidence to see if the State agrees with you or me. And then a jury will also have to weigh the same evidence.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Looks to me like he did everything he could to avoid the kid, but I suppose his experience makes him immune to the physics of the car and track.

jerv's avatar

@zenvelo Yep; that’s where I disagree. You see a kid on the shoulder getting hit by something that handles like inertia doesn’t exist while I see a kid dressed in dark clothing running into the path of something that handles like a pregnant ox (at least at low speeds where the wings aren’t working and the rear tires are gripping). As for the experience part, I’m with @Darth_Algar; experience doesn’t negate physics.

But we shall see. I think much hinges on whether the jury knows the difference between an Indy car and a Mack truck.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@zenvelo personnel who go onto the tracks to assist in the wreck do so cautiously. There was nothing cautious about that kid. He just ran out there like it was an empty desert road. Talk about a hothead.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@jerv “But we shall see. I think much hinges on whether the jury knows the difference between an Indy car and a Mack truck.”

I think everything hinges on whether or not the states feels criminal charges are warranted. If it actually goes to a jury then Stewart’s probably fucked. (I don’t have a lot of faith in juries and my own experience on one didn’t do much to bolster that.)

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