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NASCAR's Stewart hits, kills driver on NY track

CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. (AP) -- 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.

"He was visibly shaken by this accident," Povero said.

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 25-lap race was under caution when Ward was struck. Stewart's car was behind another before he hit Ward.

"The first car swerved to avoid the driver," Povero said.

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.

"The next thing I could see, I didn't see (the other driver) anymore," witness Michael Messerly said. "It just seemed like he was suddenly gone."

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's racing team manager Greg Zipadelli said Stewart will race in NASCAR's event Sunday at Watkins Glen, calling the race "business as usual."

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.

Stewart was involved in a July 2013 accident at Canandaigua that seriously injured a 19-year-old driver. He later took responsibility for his car making contact with another and triggering the 15-car accident that left Alysha Ruggles with a compression fracture in her back.

After Saturday's accident, ambulances, fire trucks and police arrived within moments, Messerly said. Fans filed out in stunned silence, he said.

Tony Stewart Involved In Fatal Collision With Other Driver

The accident Saturday came almost exactly a year after Stewart suffered a compound fracture to his right leg in a sprint car race in Iowa. The injury cost him the second half of the NASCAR season. Stewart only returned to sprint track racing last month. He didn't return to racing in any form until February when preparation for NASCAR's season-opening Daytona 500 began.

Stewart was a spectator at the Knoxville Nationals in Iowa on Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of the accident, and posted on his Twitter account: "Thank you to everyone that worked so hard to get me back to where I'm at today. It's your life, live it!"

Roughly three hours after Saturday night's accident in New York, Donny Schatz, a sprint car driver for Tony Stewart Racing, won the prestigious Knoxville Nationals in Iowa for an eighth time.

"I was just told there was an incident involving Tony. I don't know to what extent or what's happening," Schatz said.

Stewart is co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, the four-team NASCAR organization that fields cars for Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick. He's struggled a bit this year since returning from his leg injury, and heads into Sunday's race winless on the season and ranked 19th in the standings.

Stewart was scheduled to start 13th on Sunday at Watkins Glen International in south central New York state. He has just five races remaining to either score a win or move inside the top 16 in points to grab a valuable spot in NASCAR's championship race.

Join the discussion

1000|Characters 1000  Characters
s August 10 2014 at 7:41 AM

I'm surprised no one has blamed
Obama yet.

Flag Reply +38 rate up
28 replies
bailey.willie August 10 2014 at 7:28 AM


Flag Reply +34 rate up
4 replies
Doug August 10 2014 at 7:55 AM

Libs on here making fun of a culture not approved by them.

Childish, "liberal", moron snobs.

Flag Reply +27 rate up
12 replies
excontroller August 10 2014 at 7:40 AM

Kevin made a FATAL mistake by losing his cool! But I KNOW Stewart knows what happens when you gun it! There needs to be an inquest here. I think Tony Stewart is probably guilty of manslaughter, at the very least!

Flag Reply +19 rate up
6 replies
habuqab August 10 2014 at 7:23 AM

Why do people NOT get out of their vehicle and walk in the middle of car running 70 plus MPH on an interstate??? Probably the same reason this genius should not have gotton out of his vehicle and walked into on coming racers. If you are going to be dumb, you got to be tough.

Flag Reply +19 rate up
6 replies
fentex5 August 10 2014 at 7:35 AM

Gee golly gosh-a-mighty. If Ward had his gun with him, the outcome would have been much different. Nevertheless, the Nasclods got their desired blood sport fix for another week.

Flag Reply +15 rate up
10 replies
Hi August 10 2014 at 7:20 AM

Out of respect they should cancel the race, I do not believe there was anyway he did not see him, he had to have been paying attention to the road. He saw his car there stopped and him, he had it in for him and should be locked up.

Flag Reply +14 rate up
17 replies
rlmcanoe August 10 2014 at 7:06 AM

Condolences from Massachusetts to family and friends of this young man. very sad, I wish that he had remained in his car until the crew got there to help him.

Flag Reply +14 rate up
2 replies
coreelectric rlmcanoe August 10 2014 at 9:51 AM

Or at least not been STUPID enough to walk in front of a speeding vehicle!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
jjdp rlmcanoe August 10 2014 at 9:52 AM

That would be the smart thing to do, the pits would've been the place to confront him, not on a dark track in a black firesut.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Tris August 10 2014 at 7:38 AM

Yea that's a good place to hold an argument. Oh look a runway, I'm going to stand here and complain to the aircraft about to land about being late, no worries.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
1 reply
James Tris August 10 2014 at 10:41 AM

Or stand on the tracks in front of the high-speed train to scold it for being off schedule.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
buckschottz August 10 2014 at 9:00 AM

Obviously, a stressed out young man. Check out his website as it details his past few months.


Flag Reply +8 rate up
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