Racer's death could lead to safety changes

Kevin Ward, Jr., 20, got out of his car during Saturday's race
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The tragedy surrounding a young New York sprint car racer is the talk of the racing world and could result in some safety changes.

Kevin Ward Jr. was struck and killed by NASCAR driver Tony Stewart on the track during a race Saturday night.



Stewart's defenders point out the visibility limitations of a dirt track car. One man says what's tolerated today must change.

"It's a tragedy," said Purdue Motorsports' Danny White. "But the first thing that really came to mind was, 'Why was he getting out of the car?'"

White has been on those emergency rigs, like the one that pulled up to help Ward after he was struck. He thinks the New York safety crew did what it could to reach Ward after the crash, but says the incident shows it's time for race tracks and leagues to toughen up rule enforcement.

"Going on the racing surface without permission can also get you disqualified," said White, quoting the rule book.

But drivers need to know officials mean business.

"With a zero tolerance, to the point, you'll be suspended the rest of the season," White said.

He says hours before Saturday's tragedy, a NASCAR driver walked onto the track in a daylight race at Watkins Glen.

While it's hard to light a racetrack, White said, "you've got a driver running out to confront another driver in a black helmet, in a black suit and a black car in kind of a dimly lit area."

He says the answer could lie with some tow truck drivers.

"They have Scotchlite," White said of the reflective tape on truck drivers' vests or uniforms.

Why not the same for night racing suits?

"Some of it is motivated by behavior," said White.

He says fans want drama and walking onto the track may be a crowd pleaser and a ticket seller, but "it doesn't matter who likes what at this point. This has to stop."

White's known Stewart since #14 was age 14. While police say all options remain open, White says "I don't think he did anything wrong from anything I've seen."

He says the number 45 car just barely missed Ward seconds before.

"If this was Dale Earnhardt Jr. would we be having this conversation? I don't know," White said.

That because of Stewart's reputation.

"Absolutely," White said.

White says while we can move our heads around anywhere in the car, a race driver's field of vision may be limited by the lifesaving HANS device that keeps the head fastened to the seat.