This week in the scenic Irish Hills, Mich. will be a most difficult and challenging one for NASCAR.
What normally would be business as usual at the giant Michigan International Speedway certainly will not be, whatever spin is put on it.
Whether three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart will drive in the Pure Michigan 400 on Sunday is anyone's guess right now.
Whether he should after the tragic, heartbreaking incident in which his sprint car struck and killed a fellow racer Saturday night at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park is a question haunting us all.
I don't know enough about the death of 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. to impose my opinion and get involved in the blame game.
I wasn't there.
I have only seen and read about it.
But I'm sick to my stomach, I can tell you that.
The death of any person in a public arena is a shocking, sad event, particularly someone who died so young.
As someone who makes a living covering motor sports, the passing of a driver on the track is excruciatingly painful. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Ward and his race team.
Having run short-track and midgets, I know how close-knit this racing community is.
As for Stewart, I can't imagine his anguish, pain, sorrow and horror at what has happened. Despite his bravery and daring, he is human and he will be scared and distressed.
I didn't know Ward, but I do know Smoke, and he is a complex man: a rare talent on the track, a generous and low-key supporter of numerous charities and one who has ruffled the feathers of us in media on numerous occasions.
Stewart enjoys riling reporters, and that's not a bad thing, necessarily. We ask a lot of dumb questions among the many and necessary good ones.
We, the media, will swarm MIS if Smoke is there this week. I hope everyone shows some class in this time of great loss.
As the accident investigation continues, the time to point fingers isn't now.
Kevin Ward Jr. is dead. We should remember him with dignity and pray for his soul.
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