It has been reported that NASCAR driver Tony Stewart, age 43, hit and killed a sprint car driver who was walking across a dirt track during a race that occurred in New York on Saturday night. However Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero stated that his department’s investigation into what happened is not considered criminal and that Stewart was completely cooperative and seemed to be extremely upset over what had transpired.
An amateur video which caught the event at Canandaigua Motorsports Park shows racer Kevin Ward Jr., age 20, stepping near Stewart’s car at the Lucas Oil Super Sprint feature race after it appeared that Stewart cut off Ward’s driving line and forced him into the wall, causing him to spin out. Ward was dressed in a dark helmet and fire suit on the weakly lit track. The video caught him moving toward Stewart’s car before he was hit and then hurtled around 50 feet.
An eyewitness stated that it looked as if Ward was attempting to confront Stewart, who is a three time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion. The video revealed that Ward was standing to the right of Stewart’s familiar No. 14 car. It then appeared to kick out from the rear and strike Ward.
It is reported that the incident happened about 10:30 p.m. at the exit for turn two during lap 14 of the 25 lap race. It was under the caution flag when Ward was reportedly struck. The witness stated that as he was watching the event unfold, all of a sudden he could not see Ward any longer. It just seemed like he suddenly disappeared.
Ward was later declared deceased at a local hospital at 11:15 p.m. That press release was from the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff Povero explained that Stewart, who is a many-time competitor at numerous local sprint car events, was questioned about the event and then released. Even so, the sheriff is still requesting that anyone who might have recorded the crash to make available copies for police investigators to analyze.
A spokesperson for Stewart and his racing team declared Ward’s death as a “tragic accident.” He added that their thoughts and prayers were going out to his family and friends. The spokesperson also stated that Stewart’s team was still attempting to go through all the details of what happened.
Stewart was scheduled to race in a NASCAR’s Sprint Cup race on Sunday at Watkins Glen. However he will not compete in that event now. Greg Zipadelli, who is Stewart’s racing team manager, told the media that the NASCAR champion would not be racing. Instead, Regan Smith will be driving Stewart’s car in the race.
This occurrence happened only four days after Stewart had reached the one year anniversary of an accident in a Sprint Car race in Iowa, where he endured a compound fracture to his right leg. That wound end up costing cost him the second half of the NASCAR season.
Ward’s personal website stated that the 20-year-old had started driving go-karts in the late 1990’s at the age of four, but had not started racing sprint cars until 2010. He was from New York State and had been considered a sprint car rookie of the year back in 2012. 2014 was his fifth season for racing Empire Super Sprints.
Stewart was also involved in an accident back in July of 2013 at Canandaigua that seriously wounded a driver who was only age 19. He later attempted responsibility for his car making contact with another and that it ended up activating a 15 car accident which left the driver with a compression fracture in her back.
Another witness to the accident stated that paramedics, police and fire trucks arrived within only a few minutes of the crash. Fans were said to have walked out of the field in shocked silence.
NASCAR released their own statement, on Sunday, which was in regards to Stewart’s decision not to race. They stated that they supported him and his choice to miss the race.
He chose to omit doing the Sunday race because of the accident of him allegedly hitting and killing Kevin Ward, Jr., on Saturday evening. Ward was a sprint car driver who walked over the dirt racing track that he and Stewart were both on.
By Kimberly Ruble