When Tony Stewart’s sprint car hit and killed fellow driver Kevin Ward, Jr., last weekend in upstate New York, it was a tragedy for all involved.
I’ve seen drivers exit cars numerous times, and often there is good reason when it appears a fire is possible. I’ve also seen them shake a fist or exhibit some other response to another driver. But this time, the action resulted in a death.
I know nothing more about the tragedy than what I’ve seen and read, but in no way do I believe Tony would ever intentionally strike someone running on the track. He is a passionate person, but not the kind of person who would run down another.
The incident brought to mind part of a column I wrote about Tony and his love for the outdoors back in early April of 2011. It follows.
Tony Stewart ran out of gas on the final lap of Saturday night’s NASCAR race, and it dropped him from third to a twelfth place finish, however a favorite project of his continues racing ahead.
Stewart owns more than 400 acres near Columbus. It is named Hidden Hollow Ranch and is a place for Tony to get away when he isn’t battling on the NASCAR circuit.
But, the ranch has become more than a place for Tony to relax and enjoy the outdoors. It now is being used to study habitats and deer-related issues in a partnership with Tony and Mississippi State University.
Hidden Hollow Ranch is becoming an outdoor laboratory for biologists in a partnership with Mississippi State and the Catch-A-Dream Foundation, which grants hunting and fishing experiences to youngsters who have a life-threatening illness.
Since 2001, the Foundation has granted wishes to 339 children ages six to 18 from 45 different states.
According to Stewart, who started his racing career in a go-cart at Westport, IN, the cooperative venture between the school and Catch-A-Dream fits well with his interests in wildlife and providing outdoor opportunities to young people.
The two-time NASCAR champion began hunting about six years ago, and since has become a bow hunting enthusiast, when he has time to get away from the track.
Tony has hosted seven ill youngsters for hunts at Hidden Hollow.
He said hosting such events and spending time in the field, “is what relaxes me.”
Stephen Demarais, a Mississippi State professor of wildlife and fisheries, said being able to study Indiana habitats will help scientists determine whether wildlife management policies translate from the Southeast to the Midwest.
Mississippi State has an information-sharing program in place with state agencies in Kentucky, Missouri and Michigan and at Purdue University, he said.
According to researchers, growing deer herds have put stress on habitat, and creates problems in parks and urban areas, and creates increased human-deer conflicts.
Tony hasn’t said how much his effort toward the project at Hidden Hollow is worth, but he said he hopes the relationship between himself and the organizations is a long one.
In all of his philanthropic activities, his foundations has provided more than four million dollars to various organizations.