Gossage: Nothing can minimize the pain either Stewart, Ward family feels

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Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage, who’s known as one of the better promoters in racing, said both Tony Stewart and the Ward family need time to heal and recover from the pain they’re both feeling as a result of Saturday night’s incident that claimed Kevin Ward Jr.’s life.

Gossage, who’s known and promoted Stewart’s races at least since he was then racing in the Indy Racing League at TMS’ first year of operations in 1997, and annually in NASCAR since 1999, discussed the situation Wednesday on Voices of the Game with Newy Scruggs, on NBCSportsRadio.com.

“It’s a sad horrible tragic mess. If I were in his (Kevin Ward Sr.’s) shoes, I’d be crushed, so I totally understand his feelings,” Gossage said.

“And the one thing I do know is that Tony would not (intentionally) have hit that young man… if he had a way to avoid it, he would have,” he added. “It’s just an accident, but a tragic one.”

Gossage said he didn’t know if Stewart will be able to find the mental fortitude needed to compartmentalize the events of Saturday night and race this weekend in Michigan. Stewart’s status for the race is uncertain.

“I don’t know. I’d have to know where his mind is,” Gossage said. “I can only imagine he is just crushed by this. Knowing how Tony is such a big-hearted, emotional person, that’s good and bad. In a situation like this it’s not something that you can easily compartmentalize.

“Tony doesn’t really have any family. His mom and dad, yes. But he’s not married, no kids. I don’t even think he has a girlfriend right now. There’s something to be said for having friendly faces around him.

“Nothing you can say can minimize the pain he’s dealing with, or the Ward family either.”

Lastly as a track promoter and president, Gossage understands the business side – Stewart, as team co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing and owner Eldora Speedway has what Gossage estimated as 600 to 1,000 people he needs to take care of.

“Without him, they don’t have a job,” Gossage said. “That’s something I know he thought about, a year ago; the impact it has on those people. It’s one of those things.

“Running Texas Motor Speedway, I feel an obligation to every family and knowing their way of life.

“Tony’s ‘golf game’ is running sprint car races on dirt. Sunday is when he’s working.”

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.