- Tony Stewart's crash is creating a furor in the racing community and raising questions about professional drivers competing in other forms of motorsport, particularly sprint cars.
- Sprint cars offer a fast-and-furious style of short-track racing.
- Stewart has been a prime example of a high-profile driver keeping a busy schedule racing on short dirt tracks in sprint cars and other types of machines.
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Tony Stewart's broken leg — the result of a sprint-car crash on Monday — has triggered debate in the racing fraternity about major-league stock-car racing drivers competing in other forms of motorsport, particularly sprint cars.
The powerful, lightweight sprint cars produce some of the wildest and wooliest racing — and some of the most spectacular crashes. Stewart was involved in two such wrecks in a span of eight days, walking away from the first one and breaking both bones in his lower right leg in the second.
Stewart, 42, of Columbus, Indiana, will undergo a second surgical procedure, it was announced Tuesday. He will miss an undetermined number of races.
The night before Stewart's injury in Oskaloosa, Iowa, a veteran sprint car driver, 63-year-old Kramer Williamson, was fatally injured in a wreck at Lincoln Speedway in Pennsylvania, underscoring the tragic side of racing. In May, rising star Josh Burton, 22, was killed in a wreck at Bloomington Speedway in Indiana.
In June, Jason Leffler, a short-track veteran who had climbed to the NASCAR ranks, was killed when his winged sprinter crashed in a race at Bridgeport, New Jersey.
Retired three-time Cup Series champion Darrell Waltrip, now an analyst for Fox Sports, commented on the controversy on Tuesday.
"We already were questioning the wisdom of racing in other series, especially sprint cars," Waltrip said. "But I think Tony's injury probably is the straw that broke the camel's back."
Another retired NASCAR champion, Dale Jarrett, defended Stewart's busy racing schedule outside of stock cars.
"A lot of drivers spend their time in the gym," Jarrett said. "They're all the time in the gym working out. But that is Tony Stewart's workout, behind the wheel of a racecar."
NASCAR President Mike Helton also defended the extracurricular racing.
"Motorsports is motorsports," Helton said, "and we work hard on making NASCAR inclusive to every group. Not exclusive."
He added that efforts have been made to improve the safety of all forms of racing. "But it's still a dangerous sport," he added, "and you have occurrences like we've been reminded of."
Max Papis will replace Stewart in the Stewart-Haas Racing Sprint Cup Chevrolet this weekend at Watkins Glen, New York. No decision has been made regarding a replacement in the other races Stewart will miss.
Edmunds says: Are sprint cars inherently more dangerous than other racing cars? Kramer Williamson was the first driver fatality at Pennsylvania's Lincoln Speedway, where the cars race regularly, since 1975.