There are some things in my life I could never, ever imagine changing, eliminating, or from which I would walk away. There are reasons; up to others standards or not, they are my reasons, and therefore valid, to me. Until today, I believed I would be a NASCAR fan my entire life.
And I have been a Tony Stewart fan since his rookie year in 1999, beginning specifically with the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, NC on Memorial Day weekend. I knew he was an Indy driver, and was planning to make the switch to NASCAR. That day he drove in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600, finishing in the top 10 at both races. After the NASCAR race, he was carried away by ambulance, suffering from exhaustion and dehydration. The bars I set are exceedingly high, regardless the sport, and when I saw his passion and dedication that day, I became a fan; and once committed, that meant I would be a fan until the end.
Without belaboring the details of last night’s tragedy, I will state there is no sport, activity, or event worth a person’s life. Unfortunately for Kevin Ward, Jr that was not the case. He is dead, and his family and friends are left to grieve his loss. It was all unnecessary. And it is irreversible.
I do not wish to sit in judgment of Tony Stewart, Kevin Ward, Jr, nor any of the people who have been party to ramping up the anger, violence, and aggression prevalent on the race track, today. There is no question that this behavior brings high ratings. When the very first flag to flag NASCAR race was broadcast in 1979, Richard Petty winning Daytona 500 for the sixth time was not the big news. No. It was the fight on the track’s infield between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison that had fans whooping it up, providing over the top ratings for CBS.
I know there is a huge population who views racing as nothing more than a go fast, turn left experience. For some of us, it is a part of our heritage, and culture. I cannot remember a time when racing was not listened to on our old radio, watched on TV, or practiced by family who loved the speed, and dared to be fastest. But for now, I grieve over a wasted life, and need to turn from something that fosters anger and violence over competition and skill. For me, the stands are empty, engines are silent, and I must walk away.