NASCAR’s Stewart hits, kills driver
CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. — NASCAR driver Tony Stewart struck and killed a sprint car driver who had climbed from his car and was on the track trying to confront Stewart during a race in upstate New York on Saturday night.
Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said his department’s investigation is not criminal and that Stewart was “fully cooperative” and appeared “very upset” over what had happened.
A video of the crash at Canandaigua Motorsports Park showed driver Kevin Ward Jr., wearing a black helmet and firesuit on a dimly lit track, walking toward Stewart’s car before being hit and hurtled 50 feet. Povero said the driver was pronounced dead Saturday night at a Canandaigua hospital. Stewart was unhurt.
A witness said it appeared Ward was trying to confront Stewart, the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion. The video showed Ward standing to the right of Stewart’s familiar No. 14 car, which seemed to kick out from the rear and hit him.
Povero said the 43-year-old Stewart, a frequent competitor at local sprint car events, was questioned and released. The sheriff asked for people who recorded video of the crash to provide copies for investigators to review.
A spokesman for Stewart’s racing team called Ward’s death a “tragic accident.”
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends,” the spokesman said in a statement. “We’re still attempting to sort through all the details.”
Stewart was scheduled to race in in NASCAR’s event Sunday at Watkins Glen. The statement did not address whether Stewart would remain in the race, which is critical for his championship chances.
The dirt track, about 30 miles southeast of Rochester, canceled the remainder of the race and later posted a message on its Facebook page encouraging fans to “pray for the entire racing community of fans, drivers, and families.”
It said a statement on the crash would come later Sunday.
Ward’s website said he began racing go-karts in 1998 at age 4, but didn’t start driving sprint cars until 2010. The 20-year-old from Port Leyden, New York, was Empire Super Sprint rookie of the year in 2012 and this year was his fifth season racing the Empire Super Sprints.