While everyone has strong opinions on the matter, no one has any real idea what happened when Tony Stewart ran over and killed Kevin Ward, Jr. during a race last night, and it's possible we may never know what he was thinking from behind the wheel. What we do know is that Stewart has often found himself in conflict with other drivers on the track. As seen in the clip above—it's almost exactly two years old—Stewart once notoriously threw his helmet at Matt Kenseth's car in a very similar kind of confrontation he was involved in last night. Nothing happened except for the helmet toss, but Stewart said after the race that he would "run over" Kenseth "every chance [he] got."
After a couple of days, he cooled off.
"I don't enjoy getting mad like that," he told reporters Tuesday in Charlotte. "It doesn't make my day. I wasn't happy when I did it, I wasn't happy when it was over, I wasn't happy when I got home."
There are plenty of "Best of Smoke" videos on YouTube where Stewart gives profane, often angry interviews after races. Sometimes it seems that Stewart is just popping off, playing up to his image, but he has never shied from physical confrontation.
He's also scrapped with Joey Logano:
And Jeff Gordon:
And this is just a weird video of the fetishization of the No-Nonsense Driver mentality sometimes used to justify the crazy things these guy do behind the wheel.
It's too much to draw a direct line between this sort of thing and whatever happened last night; being a hot head is one thing, running a man over is another. Still, there's a reason why the initial reaction of many observers was that Stewart's temper had finally gotten the better of him. Up until that last moment, this was just like any other moment that would be added to a compilation video.