Tony Stewart, the infamous Nascar driver, struck and killed another driver today during a dirt track sprint car event. The event was held at Canadaigua Motorsports Park. You can view the graphic video of the hit on Youtube. In it, you will observe Tony Stewart, the three-time Sprint Cup champion, hitting Kevin Ward Jr. Ward.
Ward and Stewart had already bumped their cars in an earlier lap. This sent Ward’s car in an outside wall and led to a caution flag. As a result, Ward left his race car and approached Stewart’s on foot when it finished the following lap. Ward was standing on the track. He pointed at Stewart, while Stewart’s car was approaching. The right tire hit Ward and dragged him under. He was declared dead at F.F. Thompson Hospital. The death occurred approximately one hour away from the Nascar Sprint Cup Race at Watkins Glen. Later that day, Greg Zipadelli, vice president of the competition from Stewart-Haas, announced that Regan Smith will be replacing Stewart.
“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.” – Tony Stewart
Earlier this week, Stewart was cooperating with an investigation at the Ontario County Sheriff office. He was allowed to return to Watkins Glen, and Zipadelli announced that he would be participating in the race.
“We support Tony Stewart’s decision to miss today’s race and we will continue to respect the process and timeline of the local authorities and will continue to monitor this situation moving forward.” – Nascar’s statement
Sheriff Philip Povero will hold a news media briefing on the investigation at 3 P.M. The deceased, Ward, was from Lyons Falls, New York, and he began racing go-carts at four years old.
There have been contrasting opinions about the wreck. Some people blamed Ward for approaching Stewart, while others believe that Stewart is responsible. Ward may have made a wrong move when he decided to approach Stewart’s race-car, but this behavior is not unheard of in Nascar races. Tyler Graves, a sprint car driver, told Sporting News that Stewart’s action led to the fatality.
“I know Tony could see him. I know how you can see out of these cars. When Tony got close to him, he hit the throttle. When you hit a throttle one a sprint car, the car sets sideways. It set sideways, the right rear tire hit Kevin, Kevin was sucked underneath and was stuck under it for a second or two, and then it threw him about 5- yards.” – Tyler Graves
In addition to this, Stewart was involved in other accidents at Canandaigua. One of them was a 15-car multicar wreck on July 2013, when two drivers were taken to the hospital. He apolagized in a later statement for his aggressiveness on the track, and for causing the crash. Stewart has a long history of confrontations with drivers and Nascar officials.
We still do not know if Stewart will race in the Nascar Sprint Cup event in Michigan International Speedway.