There’s a pretty good chance that Bob Pockrass knows more about NASCAR and racing than you know or ever will know.
Which is why he was asked to put himself in Tony Stewart’s shoes just before the crash that killed Kevin Ward Jr. at a dirt-track race in the Empire Super Sprint series at Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Saturday night.
What did Stewart see? What was going through his mind? Can Pockrass even attempt to answer those questions?
“First off, the best attempt is still pretty much a guess,” the Sporting News NASCAR writer said on The Morning Show. “I mean, yes, there’s video. Yes, we’ve heard from some witnesses, but we haven’t been able to get Tony’s statement yet. What did he see? Could he see a driver in a dark fire suit coming toward his car under caution as he’s running 30-35 miles per hour? You would think he would, but without knowing the lighting it that area, there is a chance he didn’t see him. Was he just keeping a straight line, or did he gun the gas in order to just get past him? Did he do it to possibly say, ‘Hey, jump back,’ or did he just not even see him?”
So many questions, so few answers.
But Pockrass is sure of one thing: what happened Saturday night was not intentional.
“No, I don’t think he intended to hit him, I can tell you that,” Pockrass said. “You’ve seen drivers at times will do something (sort of) as (a) warning, but without being in that cockpit, it’s so hard to know what was going through his mind at that time and exactly what he saw.”
A warning in racing is almost like a high-and-tight fastball in baseball; it’s just part of the game. Still, why are drivers allowed on the track? If your car is on fire and you have to escape, that’s one thing. But walking angrily on the track and gesturing toward another driver? That’s madness.
“I mean, you saw Tony Stewart once get out of his car and throw his helmet at Matt Kenseth, and that highlight has been shown how many times since that happened?” Pockrass asked. “I think it’s a mix of you don’t want them out by themselves because you know it could be a safety issue, but does it add to the show a little bit when you see a driver get out and gesture and do something? I think promoters are kind of trying to toe the line there. In NASCAR, typically if a driver wants to go out and make a gesture at another driver, there’s about three or four officials right by him trying to make sure that something like this tragedy doesn’t happen.”
That was not the case Saturday night, which could prompt wide-scale changes both in NASCAR and racing in general.
“I think so,” Pockrass said. “I think (they) will be much more forceful in trying to get the drivers to go straight to the ambulance. Obviously in this situation, the safety workers hadn’t even gotten to the car yet to be able to keep Kevin from going over there and getting close to the cars under caution.”
Pockrass, who once saw a worker hit during a race while picking up debris, has never seen anything like he saw on Lap 14 on Saturday.
“This is something I haven’t seen in over 20 years of covering the sport,” he said. “This is such a rare, rare occurrence.”