As a passionate NASCAR follower and Tony Stewart fan, I certainly have my opinions about the tragic events that unfolded last Saturday night in upstate New York. However, I'm going to withhold comment on many of them because I don't want to be guilty of what I've criticized others for doing in the last 48-72 hours, and that's going off on an emotional rant that is void of any lucidity or logic. I will, however, touch upon what we can reasonably discuss and what we can do as the sport moves forward.
Where do we go from here? The sport needs to learn from this tragedy and do all that it can to ensure that it doesn't happen again. I believe that is best done by what some tracks and series have already announced and what others will certainly embrace as well -- prohibit, by rule, drivers exiting their cars while on the race track until safety personnel have arrived. Obviously, if the car is on fire, spewing hot water or hot oil on a driver, or some other situation where common sense tells him/her that it is more dangerous to remain in the car than to exit it, then by all means, exit it. Otherwise, stay in your car.
Police officers advise motorists whom they've stopped for traffic violations to do the same -- stay in the car. It's safer for both the motorist and the officer. Sure, there are exceptions, but most of the time, remaining with the vehicle is the best option.
Please understand that I cannot imagine what Mr. Ward's family and friends are going through right now, and that I give every ounce of respect to their wishes for privacy as they go through the grieving process. I hate that this accident happened and I wish that it hadn't. With this said however, I also believe that since perhaps the biggest "fix" to this situation is to mandate staying with the car, that Mr. Ward bears responsibility for HIS actions last Saturday night. Aggressively and quickly exiting his car, and running down the track into traffic on a poorly-lit racetrack at night wearing an all-black fire suit and helmet in front of cars without good visibility were all decisions I'm sure Mr. Ward would like to reconsider. Sadly, he will not have that opportunity.