TV analysts discuss Stewart injuries and Ramifications

Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart underwent surgery late Monday night for a broken right leg sustained in an accident in a sprint car race at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa. At minimum, Stewart will miss Sunday’s Cup Series event at Watkins Glen International, likely ending his shot at qualifying for this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Below, NASCAR on FOX analysts Steve Byrnes, Kyle Petty, Darrell Waltrip and Kenny Wallace offer their perspectives on the situation:

On the risk versus reward of NASCAR drivers competing in other series:
“A team owner has to weigh out the risk versus reward, but unfortunately for Tony and his team, this happened at the worst possible time of the year with him battling to make the Chase. Only Tony can answer whether it was worth it. There is no question Tony loves racing, but as a business owner at Stewart-Haas Racing, his injury is a tough blow to the team and guys who work on that car or in that building. Unfortunately, this is more complicated than saying it was just a ‘racing deal.’"
–Steve Byrnes, NASCAR Race Hub co-host

“Does Tony’s injury change the game? I don’t know. When anything happens, we as humans focus on it. Will owners and drivers re-read their contracts? Maybe. If I’m an owner with a driver and 300-plus employees that depend on that driver getting in the car each weekend because the sponsor pays me, then I not only have to protect myself, I have to protect my business and employees. That’s how I look at it as an owner. As a driver, I’m going to say, ‘This is what I do. I don’t live in a bubble. I can’t let life live me. I have to live it and can’t just sit on my rear end and do just this one thing. I want to drive everything I can.’ Therein lies what will be the compromise between the owners and drivers. Some drivers won’t ever get in another type of car. Many of them are Cup drivers only. Then there are others — Kasey Kahne, Tony, Kyle Busch and others — who will run anything with four wheels and a steering wheel. It’s not a game-changer, but Tony’s accident shines a light on an issue that certainly will be addressed by drivers and owners.
–Kyle Petty, NASCAR on FOX analyst

“Some car owners have had contracts for years that state their drivers can’t moonlight in other series, and permitting or prohibiting a driver from doing so is a loaded question. When you’re 40-plus years old like Tony Stewart and have three Cup championships, if you’re going to get hurt, you might as well do it after a wonderful career and after you’ve proven your ability. If you’re going to break any bones or have injuries in your career, Tony did it right. But if you’re in your 20s and 30s and in the midst of battling for your first championship, I’d think twice about the risks, and I think many owners would agree with me."
–Kenny Wallace, NASCAR on FOX analyst and NASCAR driver

“If there’s a misconception or something the average fan or person doesn’t understand, it’s the passion and love drivers have for racing. Some people’s passions are golf, fishing or hunting. Drivers want to spend their spare time behind the wheel of a car. Sprint cars are exhilarating and so different from anything else you’ll ever do. They’re not like driving an endurance car or a Cup Series car. A sprint car is a beast and you want to tame the beast. Tony Stewart and a sprint car just go together. He grew up racing them and now owns teams. That’s who he is. Tony is all the things you could say about a sprint car — a throwback, rough, tough and in your face."
–Darrell Waltrip, NASCAR on FOX analyst

On whether Stewart’s injury will cause more NASCAR Sprint Cup owners to prohibit their drivers from competing outside their fulltime rides:

“A lot of owners already have limits on what their drivers can do. Joe Gibbs had wanted Kyle Busch to curtail his short-track racing. It’s a tough situation for a Cup owner because these guys would race for the proverbial plastic, six-inch trophy seven days a week if you let them. Kenny Wallace always says owners need to save drivers from themselves because they don’t always make the best choices. As an owner, I’d want my driver safe, but drivers and owners truly are the only ones who can make those decisions."
–Steve Byrnes, NASCAR Race Hub co-host

“When an injury happens to a driver of Tony’s magnitude — one of the sport’s most visible superstars — such as when Dale Earnhardt’s death spawned safety innovations, everyone takes a closer look. We already were questioning the wisdom of racing in other series, especially sprint cars. But I think Tony’s injury probably is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Some owners and drivers now might decide it’s too risky and curtail this. When Tony has time to evaluate everything, he might come up with some safety innovations that could make sprint-car racing safer. Anytime something like this happens to someone like Tony, everyone will benefit down the road."
–Darrell Waltrip, NASCAR on FOX analyst

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