NASCAR's Tony Stewart hits, kills driver on NY track

Sunday, Aug 10, 2014 2:59 AM
Last updated 3:25 AM
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CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. — Authorities say NASCAR driver Tony Stewart struck and killed a driver who was walking on a dirt track during a race in upstate New York.

A video of the crash Saturday night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park showed driver Kevin Ward Jr. stepping toward Stewart's car before being hit and hurtled 50 feet.

The Ontario County Sheriff's Department would not identify the driver but said he was pronounced dead on arrival Saturday night at a hospital in Canandaigua.

Sheriff Philip Povero says the 42-year-old Stewart was "fully cooperative" as he was questioned and released. Povero says the investigation is not criminal.

Calls to Stewarts representatives were not immediately returned.

The three-time NASCAR champion is scheduled to race in NASCAR's event Sunday at Watkins Glen.

Michael Messerly, a fan who witnessed the crash, said it appeared Stewart — racing there on the eve of a race at Watkins Glen — hit a driver who was walking on the dimly lit track after they had collided on the previous lap.

He said Stewart struck the driver, who was wearing a dark racing suit, as he tried to "speed past" him.

"I didn't see (the other driver) anymore," he said. "It just seemed like he was suddenly gone."

Messerly said the crash appeared to be the result of "a number of bad decisions" and not "any intent on Tony Stewart's part."

"Auto racing is a dangerous sport," he said. "I think it was just an unfortunate set of circumstances that created a tragic situation."

The track, located about 30 miles southeast of Rochester, canceled the remainder of the race within five minutes 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.

Stewart was involved in a July 2013 accident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park 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.

On Saturday, ambulances, fire trucks and police arrived within minutes of the crash, Messerly said. Fans filed out in stunned silence, he said.

The Ontario County Sheriff's Department says its officers were at the track investigating into the early morning Sunday.

Calls to Stewart's representatives were not immediately returned.

Stewart, 42, only returned to sprint track racing last month, almost a year after breaking his leg in a crash at an Iowa track. The accident cost him the second-half of the NASCAR season, and he didn't return to racing in any form until February when preparation for NASCAR's season-opening Daytona 500 began.

He refused to stop his extracurricular racing despite the injury and was scheduled to race Sunday.

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 the 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. Stewart had spent much of the earlier part of the week trackside in Iowa watching his drivers compete.

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

Stewart, a three-time NASCAR champion, is co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing. The four-team Sprint Cup organization that fields cars for Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick. He's struggled a bit this year since returning from his 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.

Stewart was involved in a July 2013 accident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park 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.

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fatherinevans 08/10/14 - 07:42 am

Racing is very lucky to not of had more deaths related to this type of behavior. How many times have we seen these drivers run onto the track to show their displeasure with an incident. This could of been avoided by both drivers. Why this kid decided to react this way we will never know. Prayers to his family and to Tony. I doubt he tried to kill this kid and was only reacting the way all drivers react when in this situation. Whether you like Stewart or not its sad for him to be in this situation and hopefully something good will come out of this. This running on the track after an altercation needs to stop. Eire how this kid was driving a number 13 car and Tony qualified 13 at the Glenn this weekend.

fatherinevans 08/10/14 - 07:46 am
Another half report by the chronicle.....

This kid was not walking on the track....he was aggressively going toward cars racing on a dirt track while seeking out a driver behind the wheel of a car that runs 150 mph and out of control 99percent of the time. He was not stepping toward the car.... he stepped in the path of a race car that was probably going 60 mph or more at the time.....

itsanotherday1 08/10/14 - 09:44 am
In watching the video, it

In watching the video, it appears Tony swerved at the last second; which to me, suggests that he didn't see the guy until that instant. Who knows? It is a tragedy any way you look at it, and one that didn't have to happen.

Dixieman 08/10/14 - 12:35 pm
Should be a link to the video

which makes it pretty clear Mr. Ward was in the throes of road rage and seems to have brought this tragedy upon himself.

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