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Stewart to race at Watkins Glen hours after deadly dirt track accident

Stewart's collision with dirt track racer becomes deadly
Stewart's collision with dirt track racer becomes deadly
Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images

Tony Stewart went to Watkins Glen this weekend, just over a year after suffering a season-ending injury on an Iowa dirt track. Yet before racing the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen on August 10, Stewart returned to a dirt track on the night of August 9. This time around, the result was much, much worse, as a crash with a 20-year-old driver named Kevin Ward Jr. resulted in Ward walking through the track, only to get struck and killed by Stewart himself.

As of 9:30 a.m. est on August 10, the incident is merely under investigation by the local police. In the meantime, Stewart is tentatively set on racing at the Glen later today, despite the obvious difficulty. But that is just one of the many issues being debated in the wake of this tragedy.

Stewart's affinity for dirt tracks resulted in his broken leg last year. His comeback this season hasn't gone well, as he is only 19'th in points and needs one victory in the next five weeks to have a chance at making the Chase for the Cup. But instead of resting up for today's race, Stewart went back behind the wheel the night before.

According to reports, Stewart collided into Ward's car and spun him out in Turn 2. In the immediate aftermath, Ward reportedly came onto the track and waited to confront Stewart, only to get struck by him. At the moment, he has not been charged for the incident, as it appears to look like an accident so far.

Nevertheless, Stewart will be second guessed and then some for even being there in the first place. But the second guessing over his current decision to race at Watkins Glen just a half-day later will be even louder today.

Yahoo Sports' Jay Busbee has already written that NASCAR "needs to park" Stewart and make him sit out, if he won't do it himself. However, NASCAR has no authority over the dirt racing circuit, so it presumably can't punish him over his actions there -- at least not with the limited facts so far.

Yet Busbee wrote that "now is not a time" for Stewart to "use the race track as personal grief therapy." But whether he races or not, few will be really focused on anything other than him at Watkins Glen today, even when the race starts at 1 p.m. est on ESPN.