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IRL: Ward Gives Young Burn Victim a Gift

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IRL: Ward Gives Young Burn Victim a Gift
Aug 19, 1998, 5:32 AM

JEFF WARD'S GIFT TO YOUNG BURN VICTIM AFTER PPIR CRASH IS INSPIRING FOUNTAIN, Colo. - Jeff Ward might have had every reason to feel sorry for himself after a cut tire sent him into the wall on Lap 117 of the Radisson 200 Pep Boys Indy Racing ...

JEFF WARD'S GIFT TO YOUNG BURN VICTIM AFTER PPIR CRASH IS INSPIRING

FOUNTAIN, Colo. - Jeff Ward might have had every reason to feel sorry for himself after a cut tire sent him into the wall on Lap 117 of the Radisson 200 Pep Boys Indy Racing League event last Sunday at Pikes Peak International Raceway.

Ward was dominating the race in his Prolong/Superflo G Force/Aurora of ISM Racing. He took the lead on the first lap and led 33 of the first 50 circuits, 74 of the first 100 and was still in front when he was forced from the race.

How discouraging is that? What an opportunity for Ward to seek a little sympathy.

But to Ward, moping after his day ended was not nearly as important as spending time with Eric Meinig, a 5-year-old who is recovering from severe burns he sustained in a car accident one year ago this Friday.

“I saw Eric walking around the pits the other day and invited him and his dad to come into our garage,” Ward said. “I knew he had to be uncomfortable being out in the sun.”

Ward understood Eric'’s pain and what he will endure until he becomes an adult.

When Ward was less than 2 years old he opened a hot-water bottle and the boiling water drenched his neck and chest. He nearly died.

Moments after Sunday’s crash, Ward was checked out and released without injury from the PPIR Infield Care Center. But despite Ward’s obvious disappointment with losing an opportunity to get his first IRL win, he spent more time with Eric in the Care Center where Eric’s dad, Dr. Rick Meinig, is the medical director.

If that wasn’t enough, Ward went back to the ISM transporter and had the helmet he wore in the 1998 Indianapolis 500 delivered back to the Care Center for Eric. The REAL Indy helmet.

Considering it was only Ward’s second Indy 500, many marvel that he would give up the keepsake.

“Nah, Indy 500 helmets will be easy to come by,” Ward said. “We plan on racing in a lot more of them.”

The gesture of giving up what would become a family heirloom was overshadowed by Ward’s gift of time and his concern for Eric when others might wallow in self pity.

Eric is the one who really has it tough,” Ward said.

“This is something Eric will really appreciate when he gets older,” Dr. Meinig said. “It meant a lot to everyone. There really isn’t anything you can say.”

When Jeff Ward was with young Eric on Sunday afternoon, the tears on the faces of doctors, nurses and paramedics did all the talking that was necessary.

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About this article

Series IndyCar
Drivers Jeff Ward