Last Saturday’s Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. incident at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park was the latest in a string of tragedies for sprint car racing that has stretched over the last year and a half.
Among those tragedies: Two people being killed in March 2013 when a car careened off track and into pit road; the death of NASCAR veteran Jason Leffler at a New Jersey track in June of that year; and the August 2013 death of hall of fame sprint car racer Kramer Williamson, which came one day after he was injured in a crash in Pennsylvania.
NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie phenom Kyle Larson first made his name in sprint car racing, and today at Michigan International Speedway, Larson said that he wasn’t happy with how the sport has been portrayed in recent times.
While saying that he offered his thoughts and prayers to all involved in Saturday’s tragedy – particularly the Ward family – Larson also asserted that sprint car racing has received “a bad rap.”
“Sprint car racing is awesome – it’s some of the best racing you’ll ever see in your life, and over the last couple of years, with all the stuff that’s gone on, sprint car racing’s gotten a bad rap,” he said.
“I just wish, you know, ESPN and stuff could go play highlights of the Knoxville Nationals that just happened this weekend and see how good the racing was there, how good it is every weekend – they race three, four times a week and the racing’s great.
“I just wish, rather than it being where everybody talks about how dangerous it is and you’re stupid if you run ’em and stuff, I just wish you could see the good parts of it.”
Larson himself said that he would like to continue racing sprint cars in the future. While his Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series duties have largely kept him from doing that this year, he said that he’d like to get in some sprint car events either during this off-season or next year.
“I enjoy doing it, and hopefully, I can do it the rest of my life,” he said.
As for the Stewart/Ward incident, Larson felt it was tough for him to have an opinion on it since he wasn’t there and he had never been there before.
He added: “There’s only one guy that knows what happened – or two, and one’s not here anymore,” a reference to Stewart and the late Ward, who was laid to rest yesterday.
However, Larson believes that after Saturday’s fatal crash and with the immediate onset of NASCAR’s new rules regarding driver protocol in the event of on-track incidents, drivers will think before letting their emotions get the better of them.
Ward was fatally struck by Stewart’s car after walking down the racing surface to apparently confront him following an on-track tangle between the two.
Said Larson: “I’m sure everyone of us has, at least one time in our careers, done something on the race track where we’d get out of the car, and we’d look back and think, ‘Should’ve thought twice about it.’
“I think a lot of people now are going to learn after seeing that video or hearing about it. We’re all gonna think twice and if we’re upset with somebody, we’re going to think about it before we get out of the car…It just really sucks that it all happened.”