Broadslidin’ Blog: Moving Forward — What Do We Learn From Kevin Ward Jr.’s Death?

Steven Ovens Asphalt Modifieds, Carolinas Racing, Dirt Modifieds, Dirt Track Racing, Featured, NASCAR, Northeast, Other Dirt Late Models, Other Sprint Cars, Racing Nation, Sprints & Midgets, Staff Columns, Steven Ovens Blog, Super DIRTcar Series 0 Comments

PENN YAN, NY — Blog By Race Chaser Online New York Correspondent Steven Ovens — Photo By Hammer Down Photos — This surely has been a week where the unthinkable happened and we have had to endure a week of unthinkable words and assertions from the mainstream media.

A family just outside of Syracuse is mourning the loss of their 20-year old son and a three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion has sat out his 2nd weekend in a row.

I think we have heard enough opinions, watched enough videos and read enough articles with fairly crazy speculation that we can handle.  But I have really sat back this week and thought to myself and out loud, “Where do we go with this?  What is the piece of this that we grab onto and say is what we learned from this tragic accident?”

It really hasn’t taken long to figure any of that out.  Early on this week, several speedways across the country have showed us what the lesson is and how we will go about trying to prevent it moving forward.  I will start with two local speedways in my neck of the woods that are leading the charge in preventing other drivers from being struck on a racetrack.

Brewerton and Fulton Speedways, owned by John Wight in Central New York, were the first two tracks in New York to present a new rule to their drivers and teams that would go into place effective immediately.  The new rule is worded:

It is the goal of speedway management to maintain the safest possible racing conditions for all drivers. Only safety crews and wrecker crews are permitted on the track in the event of an accident. Pit crew members are not permitted on the track. Drivers are required to stay in their car in the event of an on-track incident. If a driver, for whatever reason, exits a car on the track during a caution period, the race will automatically be placed under a red flag and all cars will come to a complete stop. A driver may exit a car if requested by a safety crew member or if safety warrants in cases such as a fire. Drivers that exit a car without permission, for whatever reason, are subject to fine and/or suspension at the discretion of track management. “

This is how we move forward my friends.  This is not a rule that places blame on Kevin Ward Jr. for what happened at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Saturday night.  The rule put into place by these two tracks is one that will ensure us that there are no more stories that will tell like that of Kevin Ward Jr.’s.  It does not stop an angry driver from exiting his car is he or she so chooses, but if they do they will pay a hefty price and have a fair amount of time after doing so to think over that poor decision.

This rule also has a second purpose that probably won’t get much air time but is almost as important as it’s main intent.  It will also help prevent the mental strife and weight that is then dumped onto the shoulders of the driver who is behind the wheel when such an unfortunate event takes place.  None of us can imagine what Tony Stewart is thinking as he wakes up every day and has to carry with him.  By putting this rule in place this week, hopefully no other driver will ever have to carry what Tony is carrying on his shoulders as he continues to grieve in his Columbus, IN home.

Brewerton and Fulton aren’t the only ones who have taken a pro-active stance for their track.  Raceway 5 in Batavia, NY was quick to add a rule with similar wording this week.  The Paradise Speedway in Geneva, NY also showed that this type of rule knows no limits between a track running full-sized DIRTcar Modifieds or their speedway which hosts racing for go-karts, micro sprints and 4-cylinder stock cars.  Paradise Speedway took very similar wording from the rule designed by Brewerton and Fulton and will apply to their speedway starting this coming Saturday night.

As we try and work through this difficult time in our sport, I hope that this new rule requiring drivers to stay inside their vehicles only continues to spread across the short track world.  Whether we knew it or not, we needed this ‘unspoken rule’ to be spoken and printed in our speedway rulebooks.  What is unfortunate, is that we had to lose Kevin Ward Jr. before we realized we needed to say it out loud and have it in print for all competitors, teams, fans and outsiders from our sport to see.

There is a saying that is often used within the brotherhood of our nation’s Fire Departments when they lose a ‘brother’ or a ‘sister’ within their department.  Fellow firemen often say ‘Rest easy brother, we’ll take it from here.’  With losing Kevin this week and already seeing the changes being made since we lost him on Saturday night — that saying only feels appropriate.

Rest easy Kevin, we’ll take it from here.

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