Shortly after 8pm Saturday night at Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl, SK Modified competitor Shawn Monahan made a decision that he will never make again.
Following an on-track incident with Keith Rocco while battling for the lead on the last lap of the 35-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series feature, Monahan exited his car on the race track and charged towards the front of Rocco’s stopped car in turn four before throwing his steering wheel at it.
Rocco revved his engine, turned left and drove away as Monahan looked on with frustration in his eyes.
Just a few hours later roughly 350 miles away in Canandaigua, New York, 20-year-old Sprint Car driver Kevin Ward, Jr. was killed at New York’s Canandaigua Speedway after a similar out-of-car confrontation with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart.
The news of Ward’s death shook the racing community and gave Monahan goosebumps as he reflected on what he had done just a few hours earlier in Waterford, Connecticut.
“Absolutely not,” Monahan told Speed51.com powered by JEGS Tuesday when asked if he’d repeat his actions following the tragic death of Kevin Ward, Jr. “Not a chance. It’s a big eye-opener for what has been going on in motorsports for a long time. When you have something as significant and unfortunate as the Ward family is going through, it definitely changes your whole outlook on how you are going to react.”
Monahan, who started from the pole position, paced the way for the majority of the 35-lap NWAAS SK Modified feature before a bump from Rocco on the last lap sent him spinning into the infield grass and ruined his chances of his first SK Modified win in 2014.
While fans were displaying their displeasure with Rocco’s last lap move, race officials announced their decision to penalize Rocco and sent him to the rear for rough driving.
As Monahan exited his wrecked car in the infield grass area, he had the steering wheel from his No. 31 machine in hand as he angrily looked around the track for Rocco’s No. 88 while the near-capacity crowd egged him on. When race officials stopped Rocco in turn four to inform him of the penalty, Monahan ran down the frontstretch and threw his steering wheel at Rocco’s car.
In a phone conversation with Speed51.com on Tuesday, Monahan reflected on what he should have done differently and what he plans to do if a similar situation were to occur again.
“I’m coming fresh off of doing the exact opposite of what I should have done,” said Monahan. “The bottom line is that you want to put your hands around the guy’s neck. The right thing to do in hindsight is to just leave it in the hands of the officials and chalk it up because that is part of what the sport is about. You go back next week and you try to beat him. That’s the right thing to do. It’s not your job to police what’s happening. It’s the track’s job to do that. That’s ultimately what needs to happen.”
The incident that occurred in Waterford on Saturday night hit close to home for Monahan as less than one month ago he was involved in a fiery crash in which he saw his “life flash before (his) eyes.” Monahan considered the fiery crash to be a wakeup call for him and he hopes that the tragic events that occurred in upstate New York on Saturday will serve as another wakeup call for racecar drivers across the country.
“One month ago I was involved in a serious situation in a racecar where fire erupted and I couldn’t breathe,” said Monahan. “It was all because I had an oil cooler on the left side nerf bar. What did I learn from that? I’ll never show up again with a Modified with an oil cooler sitting outside of my window.
“It’s the same thing for this. I personally just went through it and then had a wakeup call to find out what happened with Tony Stewart just a few hours later. Hopefully it sets in with the other competitors and they can learn from this and think about the Ward family when a situation like this comes up.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Featured Photo Credit: Howie Hodge