The night of August 9, 2014 was one that ended horribly. It didn’t start out that way. That Saturday night started out as something that was supposed to be fun. A dirt track in Upstate New York was running its program like many others across America. As an added feature a NASCAR champion was racing; the stands were filled and fans cheered.
It all ended so horribly. Those in attendance witnessed a tragedy as a young man lost his life. The true circumstances may still be debated but all the evidence seems to indicate that what happened was nothing more than a terrible, awful accident. It left a family grieving over the loss of a son and the NASCAR champion in a state of shock. The rest of the NASCAR world too was in a state of shock. Let there be no doubt however that no matter what anyone might think, there can be no argument on one point; Tony Stewart had no intention of bringing any physical harm to anyone. What happened was an accident. Nothing more that a horrifying, terrible accident.
The emotions were such that Tony Stewart did what many thought unthinkable; he stepped aside and elected not to race the following day. We can debate the decision all we want, but in the end, we have to respect it, his decision. Only those who have been part of such a tragic event could ever understand why someone just needs to withdraw, step out of the light for a little bit.
Tony has sat out the last three races. He had that right and that right needs to be respected. In the interim a family buried their son, and the entire world, sadly as some would say, has moved on. The last three races have been run, winners have been declared, points awarded. But it’s been different; there has been a little less cockiness, less swagger in the NASCAR garage. In a vanilla world, Tony Stewart is the sprinkles, the chocolate-strawberry swirl with a three-day growth and mischievous grin. And for the last three weeks all that has been missing.
This weekend however, Stewart will return. Because it’s time for all of us to move on. Some may say sadly, yet we have to move on. Tragedy won’t stop the sunrise or the oceans tides; babies will still be born, people will still pass away. Nothing can stop that, so we have to move on; we have to live.
No one can deny the fact that the family of Kevin Ward Jr., the young man who lost his life, will ever be the same. We understand , and respect that. However, like the rest of the world, the family too will move on. They will never be the same, but they will move on.
Those of us who call ourselves citizens of the NASCAR Nation can say no magic words to make it all better for the Ward family; we can only offer our sincere prayers, condolences and a promise that we will never forget.
The world has moved on and this weekend the NASCAR garage won’t be so vanilla. Tony Stewart may be clean shaven, the swagger and mischievous grin may not be seen yet for a while, but he will be back. We will move on, because we must.
We can only hope that the family will find peace; and that Tony Stewart will see from the reaction of those in the garage and the fans in the stands at the place many of us call home, a NASCAR track,that he was missed, and loved; and that we will still give him the space he needs to continue the healing process. He won’t win a championship this year, but he doesn’t care and neither do we. Just to see him back on the track helps us all to heal.
Welcome home Tony Stewart, we missed you.