Thoughts on Tony Stewart Incident and Track Safety

I’ve talked to a few folks about this since it happened, read lots of posts on it and started to form my own opinion. Here’s a recap of what happened, as factual and non-presumptuous as possible:

  1. Tony Stewart raced in an amateur Sprint Car dirt track race in the evening Saturday August 9th at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, NY. He was set to race a NASCAR race the next day at Watkins Glen, about 50 miles away.
  2. There was an on-track incident between the cars driven by Tony Stewart and 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. As a result Kevin Ward Jr. spun and crashed with his car apparently non-operable on the track. Yellow flags come out, which means caution, no overtaking.
  3. Kevin Ward Jr. gets out of his car with cars still on track, apparently in an attempt to confront Tony Stewart the next time he comes around.
  4. Many cars drive by Kevin Ward Jr. and when Tony Stewart comes around, Kevin is hit by Tony’s car and injured seriously enough to die shortly thereafter.

This is an extremely sad circumstance. I feel extremely sorry for the Ward family’s loss, particularly since they were in the stands to see it. I have personally not watched a video of the incident, because I don’t feel the need to watch someone die. I’ve read enough to still make some statements about this as an avid racing fan, an attendee of racing schools and a sometimes-driver at amateur races and track days. Continue reading

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My first documented pass

I’ll likely have a few more racing videos soon, but here’s the first pass that’s on tape vs. a car that’s a legitimate contender. I’ve passed plenty of cars which were clearly slower, but this is a car I chased for a while, got close, struggled to get by due to the huge power disadvantage and then finally passed on what may have been the only possible spot – a long 180 degree sweeper.

 

To give some context, I’m driving a 1988 Honda CRX with a 4-cylinder early 90’s STI engine that maybe does 100 HP on a good day. Light car, good handling in corners, but lowish power and no chance on the straights. The Crown Vic has an 8-cylinder and an upgraded 5-speed Tremec transmission. Mediocre cornering, seemingly ok brakes, huge power in the straights.

So it came down to driver skill and I’ve been going from bad/slow to sluggish/hey-I-can-finally-pass-someone. Woohoo!

Houston, one small problem

Just ran 3 quick laps in our fine steed. Unfortunately we have a minor issue with our windshield: a giant horizontal set of cracks which take visibility from poor to awful. The course is very hilly so he crack is in the way all the time. Good thing it was three practice laps with almost nobody out there because I was slower than slow.

But it’s a start and that’s all that matters. And a new windshield is thankfully on the way.

Lemons here I come!

As some of you know, I’m more than excited to be driving in my first car race this weekend at 24 Hours of LeMons in Reno (http://www.24hoursoflemons.com). It’s arguably the most inexpensive way to go car racing since the regulations require a car which was purchased for $500 or less, safety equipment exempted (roll bar, brakes, tires, etc.) There’s a big fun, spirit and camaraderie factor in this race, not just pure competition. The penalties for infractions can be hilarious, like being paraded around the pits in costume and dancing to YMCA. This particular one is a full 24 hour race and I’m part of a team of six along with our fine racing machine: a 1990 Honda CRX. Gonna be crazy, but awesome of course.

In preparation, I’ve been buying a bunch of required safety equipment and helped a little in designing the car last weekend. Huge thanks to the core team of Ryan and Tom for inviting me to this, as well as all the logistics support of Chris. My goals are plain and simple for the race: keep the car on the track at an average pace, no infractions, no car damage, no hero acts, just bring the car back safe and sound. And have lots of fun all weekend.

I’ll be adding pictures to a gallery as long as AT&T lets me and will try to post updates to this blog as well.