Driver Killed In Incident With Stewart

Tony Stewart

The Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff said Tony Stewart is cooperating in an investigation into the death of a sprint car driver struck by Stewart's car Saturday night. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff confirmed that Tony Stewart’s sprint car struck and killed another driver during a race Saturday night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park.

The officer did not identify the victim, but a YouTube video of the incident showed Stewart’s car striking 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr.

Stewart’s spokesman Mike Arning stated early Sunday morning: “A tragic accident took place (Saturday) night during a sprint car race in which Tony Stewart was participating. Stewart was unhurt, but a fellow competitor lost his life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. We’re still attempting to sort through all the details, and we appreciate your understanding during this difficult time.’’

Arning’s statement did not indicate if Stewart’s status for today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International had changed. Stewart is scheduled to start 13th. Greg Zipadelli, vice president of competition, told reporters Sunday morning that Stewart would race.

A NASCAR spokesperson said at 9 a.m. (ET) Sunday that series officials were gathering facts on the incident while keeping Ward's family in their thoughts.

Stewart was competing in a Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints race Saturday night about a 70-minute drive north of Watkins Glen International. 

During the feature, Stewart was running underneath Ward’s car in Turns 1 and 2 on the half-mile dirt track. As they raced side-by-side on lap 14 of the 25-lap race, Ward’s car bounced off the wall and spun. The YouTube video shows Ward exiting his car, walking down the track and pointing toward Stewart as the race was under caution.

A press release from the Ontario County Sheriff’s office states “two racecars traveling in tandem approached as (Ward) continued down the track, gesturing to the two approaching cars. The first car served to avoid the driver out on the track. The second car, operated by Tony Stewart, struck the driver.’’

The video shows the right side of Stewart’s car hitting Ward, causing him to violently tumble along the track. Medical personnel arrived within seconds. Ward was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival at 11:15 p.m., about 45 minutes after the incident, according to the Ontario County Sheriff’s office. An autopsy has been ordered.

The rest of the race was canceled. 

The press release from the Ontario County Sheriff’s office states that Stewart “has cooperated with the investigation, which is ongoing.’’

Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said that Stewart “was visibly shaken by this incident and has promised his continuing cooperation in this investigation.’’

Povero, speaking at an early-morning press conference, described the investigation as an “on-track crash investigation.’’

Povero said that the district attorney’s office has been notified, which is standing operating procedure in any death investigation, but there are no charges pending. Povero gave no timetable on when he thought the investigation would be completed. 

Because the investigation is continuing, Povero would not reveal any of Stewart’s statements about the incident. 

The track stated on its Facebook page at 1:02 a.m. (ET): “Canandaigua Motorsports Park will not have an official statement on the accident that happened in the ESS race until tomorrow. Please pray for the entire racing community of fans, drivers, and families.’’

Jason Brown of Newark, N.Y., was at the track and told Motor Racing Network that Ontario County Sheriff officers inspected Stewart’s sprint car in the pit area and remained around Stewart’s hauler long after the remaining teams had left.

Ward began racing go-karts at age 4. He went on to win six track championships and about 250 features in eight years of go-kart racing.

He began driving a micro sprint in 2007, finishing second in the points. He won the championship in that division in 2008 and ’09. In 2010, he began driving a 360 Sprint Car. He scored his first win in that division in 2011. He was listed as seventh in the points in the Empire Super Sprints as of July 21, the most recent standings available on the series’ website. He had two top-five finishes and four top-10 results to that point. 

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