Claire B. Lang: ‘No Rule Saying You Can’t Get Out Of Your Car’

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Tony Stewart (Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Tony Stewart (Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Sirius XM NASCAR host Claire B. Lang has covered racing for several decades, and she is none too pleased by the manner in which national media have covered the death of Kevin Ward. Jr., who was killed in a crash involving Tony Stewart in a dirt-track race in New York on Saturday.

“It’s okay if you’re not an expert in NASCAR. If you don’t know or you don’t know everything or it’s not something that you cover all the time, that’s okay,” Lang said on The John Feinstein Show. “I think it’s for the folks that don’t know and for some of the national media that have descended on this.”

And so, there are few things Lang wishes to clarify.

“Tony Stewart races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and I will start here by saying a lot of people are not making it clear – because it makes a better headline – that this incident happened at a non-NASCAR-sanctioned track,” Lang said. “It was not a NASCAR track. But what makes the waters muddy is you have a non-NASCAR track where the incident happened – where this young man, Kevin Ward Jr., was killed – and included in this is Tony Stewart, who is a NASCAR driver. He races because he loves to race. These are not NASCAR (races), but he loves to do it. So we start there.”

Lang did not like USA Today’s headline about the incident in which it said Ward’s death would cloud NASCAR’s image.

“Well, does it cloud NASCAR’s image or does it cloud Tony Stewart’s image?” she asked.

That’s a very good question. For those who don’t know, the Sprint Cup Series is like the Major Leagues of NASCAR. What Stewart did by racing in the Empire Super Sprint series would be like a big league player playing in the minors on his off day.

That begs the question: Should NASCAR prohibit its drivers from participating in non-NASCAR events?

“That’s never been the culture of NASCAR,” Lang said. “And it helps some of these venues when they have a big star come. It keeps some of these small tracks alive, in fact, when these guys do that. Should they have a rule? I don’t know. It’s never been the culture to say you can’t go race at your hometown race if you want to go even though you’re a superstar.”

But why on earth was Ward walking angrily on the track? To someone not familiar with NASCAR – or racing in general – that seems extremely reckless. Is that common in the sport?

“Well, first of all, I can’t say why he was on the track,” Lang said. “I saw the video like you. He was obviously not happy. He got out of his car. In the conversation I had in the deadline room – and I truthfully agree with this – (we discussed how) there’s no rule that (says) if you’re angry you can’t get out of your car. It happens at tracks all over the country. Tony Stewart himself has gotten out of a car and been angry. It happens.”

But why is there no rule against that?

“The reason that there’s no rule anywhere at these tracks that you can’t get out and flip your fists at somebody (is) because there’s that blurred line between safety and entertainment,” Lang said. And this may very well lead to a rule where they (prohibit that). But this is not the only track it’s happened at. (It’s) certainly not the only track where they do it. Because they do it at a lot of tracks – all the time.”

“But I absolutely do not understand why someone would get out of their car in a black uniform with a black helmet on,” Lang continued. “I’m not placing blame at all. (But) I see that and think how dangerous that is – and I’ve been covering this sport for as long as I can remember.”

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