Tony Stewart involved in sprint car incident; driver Kevin Ward Jr. fatally injured
Tony Stewart will not participate in the NASCAR race at Watkins Glen International today after being involved in a tragic incident at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park in upstate New York on Saturday night.
Stewart struck a competitor, Kevin Ward Jr., with his sprint car after the two were involved in a wreck. Ward exited his car, walking onto the track, to show his displeasure when Stewart’s car clipped the 20-year-old. Ward was thrown by the impact and lay motionless as track safety crews scrambled to the scene. He was announced dead on arrival at a local hospital. Stewart was not injured in the incident.
Stewart was questioned by authorities following the event. They stated that no criminal charges have been filed. Further activities at the dirt track were cancelled.
“When the investigation is completed, we will sit down with the district attorney and review it,” Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said. “But I want to make it very clear: there are no criminal charges pending at this time.”
A telephone call placed to the track by Athlon Sports at 2:00 a.m. EST went unanswered.
Stewart traveled to Watkins Glen overnight with the intention of racing in the NASCAR event today. However, Stewart Haas Racing Competition Director Greg Zipadelli addressed the assembled media at Watkins Glen Sunday morning and announced Stewart would sit out.
“We talked last night and then realizing, going through the night — gave Tony some time to sleep on it — and met with him this morning and he feels strongly this is the right thing to do,” Zipadelli said of the decision. “We at Stewart Haas Racing support it and agree with it. It's a difficult time for both parties. There's not a lot you can do. The only thing we can do is do what we feel is right and this is it. This is what we feel is right and are supporting Tony in it.”
Regan Smith will drive Stewart’s No. 14 SHR Chevy in today’s race.
NASCAR issued a statement Sunday morning, saying, “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and fellow competitors of Kevin Ward Jr. 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.”
Shortly after the race at Watkins Glen began, Stewart released this statement:
"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."
Stewart made his return to NASCAR at the beginning of the 2014 season after being involved in a sprint car accident in August 2013. In that incident, Stewart suffered a broken leg in a crash at Southern Iowa Speedway and missed the final 15 NASCAR events of the season.
Stewart is mired at 19th in the Sprint Cup Series standings, without a win this season.
Photo by Action Sports, Inc.