Imagine you were driving one night and accidentally hit someone on the road and killed them -- would you be eager to hop into your car the next morning and go to work?
Probably not -- but that almost happened today with Tony Stewart; Earlier this moring, it was being reported that Stewart would still race at Watkins Glen. Thankfully that news changed not long after, and it was announced Regan Smith would fill in for Tony.
That's really the only move that could have been made here. Regardless of any potential legal woes for Tony Stewart in the wake of this tragic accident, how on earth could be be focused on the race at the Glen knowing what happened last night? That takes some processing time, and he has no business in a racecar right now. I have a feeling NASCAR would have made him take the race off even if he had insisted on racing (that might have even been what changed his mind, unofficially).
I get it: Tony Stewart is a pure racer at heart and this is what he does. Maybe this is the best way he has to forget about the tragedy for a few hours and try to get a win and dedicate it to the gone-too-soon Kevin Ward Jr.
But it would have been a circus and a distraction if he raced today -- and not competing is the best -- and only -- move he had to make.
NASCAR's official statement
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and fellow competitors of Kevin Ward Jr. We support Tony Stewart’s decision to miss today’s race and we will continue to respect the process and timeline of the local authorities and will continue to monitor this situation moving forward.”
Bad PR moves
It would seem to me that Tony Stewart could use some coaching for his public relations staff. In the wake of this tragedy, a couple of their statements rubbed me the wrong way.
1. Initially this morning SHR officials said Stewart would have a "business as usual" race when he competed which sounded pretty callous to me considering a man is dead.
2. About equally callous was SHR's official statement, which seemed to focus more on Tony than the deceased driver: "A tragic accident took place last night during a sprint car race in which Tony Stewart was participating," Mike Arning said. "Tony was unhurt, but a fellow competitor lost his life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends."
Those are a couple of the most badly worded and insensitive statements I've seen in a while. Get a clue and show some respect.
UPDATE (1:52 p.m. Sunday): Stewart's statement
“There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr. It’s a very emotional time for all involved, and it is the reason I’ve decided not to participate in today’s race at Watkins Glen. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this tragedy.”
Matt Myftiu can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MattMyftiu