Driver recalls Vermilion County Speedway incident with Tony Stewart
Not long after he saw the replay of TONY STEWART hitting another dirt track driver — causing KEVIN WARD JR.'s death on Saturday night — SHAWN TOCZEK turned to his wife in Hebron, Ind., and said "if I hadn't moved, that could have been me."
On June 21, 1998, at Vermilion County Speedway in Danville, it was Toczek pointing an angry finger at Stewart after an on-track incident. News-Gazette sports writer Brian Dietz wrote that "after the two tangled in Turn 1, Toczek left his car to go after the Indy Racing League points champion."
Stewart didn't back down as he came back around.
"He played chicken with me and I moved," Toczek said Monday.
After the close call, Toczek said he pursued Stewart until he was tackled by track promoter Phil Richardson and others. Stewart was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and was released on a $75 bond. Toczek also was charged.
"I was in my mid-20s and I was ticked off," he said.
Now 41 and still competing in northwest Indiana, Toczek told me I wasn't the first to call about his brush with Stewart. "I'm hearing from people I haven't heard from in ages," he said.
His thoughts on the accident that led to Ward's death?
"I seen it and got chills," he said. "It was eerie. You don't forget something like that."
Toczek said years after the '98 incident, he and Stewart met up at another track.
"He asked if we were cool," Toczek said. "I said 'I guess.'
"It's not a secret he's a hothead. It's just a very unfortunate incident."