Monday on The Herd, ESPN’s Colin Cowherd partially blamed what he described as NASCAR's southern "eye-for-an-eye culture” for the tragic death of driver Kevin Ward Jr., who was run over by three-time champion Tony Stewart Saturday at the Canandaigua Motorsport Park dirt track. As for Stewart, Cowherd said, "I watched the video seven, eight times: He revved up, other racers put on the brakes."
Cowherd started off the 11 a.m. EST hour with a rant ripping the “machismo” perpetuated by NASCAR and what he repeatedly called the “eye-for-an-eye” worldview of the South. During his opening monologue and his follow-up discussion with NASCAR analyst Marty Smith, Cowherd criticized the sport for failing to ban running on the track and other dangerous displays of "bravado" long ago, and suggested a number of times that three-time champion Tony Stewart could have avoided hitting Ward.
Cowherd began the segment by citing NASCAR’s embrace of dangerous displays of masculinity and "settling the score," saying that it, like the NFL, NHL and boxing, deliberately allowed those elements to draw in a larger male audience.
Of all the sports in America, NFL, NASCAR, boxing, there's a lot of machismo involved. In the sports there's a fine line. They want to sell it to guys, but they have to have rules. But NASCAR failed to set a rule [against running on the track] [...] Being aggressive has always been at the heart of NASCAR. [...] Who's to blame? Bravado is, anger is, the sports culture, speed is, macho is, tempers are.
Saying NASCAR had a "unique culture" that was almost exclusively a "southern delicacy," the ESPN host linked the sport's emphasis on displays of masculine aggression to what he said was the “eye-for-an-eye” culture of the South, which he suggested encouraged behavior like that exhibited by both Ward and Stewart.
It doesn't get ratings anywhere really outside of the South in the major cities, Atlanta, Charlotte [...] It's really, really part of the South, and it's an eye-for-an-eye culture.
This culture, Cowherd said, encouraged drivers to find ways to "settle the score" by dangerous means, as in the case of Ward and Stewart. After slamming into the wall due to contact with Stewart’s car, Ward walked into the middle of the track, waiting for Stewart’s car to come back around. Dodging a few other cars, Ward walked directly toward Stewart’s oncoming vehicle, at which point Stewart’s back tire ran over Ward, killing him. This behavior, Cowherd suggested, has been encouraged by NASCAR and its "eye-for-an-eye," "settle the score" mentality.
As for Stewart, Cowherd suggested a number of times that he was too skilled a driver to accidentally run into Ward, saying the other drivers managed to miss Ward, why couldn’t Stewart?
I watched the video seven, eight times: He revved up, other racers put on the brakes. [...] His entire career, his nickname is "Smoke." He's been about confrontation, he's been the tough guy, he doesn't back down...
Citing Stewart's history of angry outbursts and his M.O. as the bad boy of NASCAR, Cowherd asked guest analyst Marty Smith if any of the other drivers suspected Stewart of deliberately hitting Ward. Smith "vehemently" denied the accusation, saying there's only sorrow with all involved in the sport.
Here's the audio. Interview with Smith begins around 22' mark.