While no one can possible know what Tony Stewart is going through after the tragic events of this past weekend, there is one former NASCAR driver who might have an idea.
Going back to 1990’s Sprint Cup Series season finale at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, Ricky Rudd was coming into what everyone believed was a routine stop. The stop, however, was far from routine.
Prior to getting to his pit stall Rudd locked his brakes, his car went out of control, and slammed into the side of Bill Elliott’s Melling Racing Ford. This happened while Elliott’s crew was working on the right side of the car, the same side Rudd’s Chevrolet hit. This was in an era that saw no pit road speed limits and crewmen didn’t wear protective gear such as helmets when going over the wall.
The impact crushed right rear tire changer Mike Rich between the two cars. He suffered cardiac arrest on the way to Georgia Baptist Hospital, was revived, made it into surgery, but two hours later died as a result of the injures. It was a very dark day for NASCAR and for Rudd.
An article from February 12, 1991 by the The Baltimore Sun delves into what Rudd went through that day and during the offseason leading up to the next season’s opening Daytona 500. While Rudd had many months away from the racing scene, Stewart does not have that option.
During that time off, Rudd contemplated retirement from NASCAR at age 34. Counseling led him back to the conclusion that him not racing would not bring back Mike Rich. While he was able to eventually move on, he would not forget about what happened.
The Sprint Cup Series now moves to the Michigan International Speedway. Stewart’s status for that race is unknown, but he has already cancelled a scheduled race at a local dirt track in the area. A race just like the one he raced at Saturday night.
As callus as it sounds, probably the best place for Stewart at this point is back behind the wheel of his #14 Chevrolet. The racing community has dealt with tragedy far too often, but there is a common theme to how to begin the grieving process. That is simply get back behind the wheel, race, and move forward on the track and in life.