Tony Stewart Hits, Kills Driver Walking on Upstate New York Racetrack
NASCAR driver Tony Stewart hit and killed another driver during an Empire Super Sprint car race at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Saturday night, according to local officials. Tony Stewart did not participate in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International.
Stewart’s car made contact with a 20-year-old driver, Kevin Ward Jr., on the 14th lap of the race. Ward’s car hit the outside wall, and the caution flag waved to slow traffic on the track. Ward got out of his car after the accident, and he walked down the track to apparently confront Stewart as he passed by the scene, according to published reports.
A video of the incident, which was posted to YouTube by a spectator, shows one car swerving to avoid Ward on the track. Stewart’s car passes close to Ward before the vehicle’s right rear tire hit the young driver.
Due to the graphic nature of the video, we have opted not to post a link to the the video in this story.
Emergency officials arrived on the scene moments after the incident, but according to published reports, Ward was pronounced “dead on arrival.”
Stewart, who was unhurt in the crash, was scheduled to race in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Watkins Glen International Raceway. He issued a statement just after 1 p.m. on Sunday:
“There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr. It’s a very emotional time for all involved, and it is the reason I’ve decided not to participate in today’s race at Watkins Glen. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this tragedy.”
The Ontario County Sheriff’s office says at this time they are treating the incident at as an “on-track crash,” but their investigation is ongoing.
“I don’t want to infer that there are criminal charges pending. When the investigation is completed, we will sit down with the district attorney and review it. But I want to make it very clear: there are no criminal charges pending at this time," Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero told reporters early Sunday.
Stewart was “visibly shaken,” according to Povero, but he has been cooperative with the investigation. Povero believed that Stewart returned to Watkins Glen International early Sunday.
Spectators are being asked to turn over any video that they have recorded of the crash.
The Empire Super Sprint series is unaffiliated with NASCAR. Stewart is known for racing in local short track events, and even broke his leg last year in a sprint car accident at the Southern Iowa Speedway.
Drivers throughout the auto racing community, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- whose father, of course, passed away following a 2001 crash -- have expressed sympathies for the Ward family on Twitter.