WARNING GRAPHIC VIDEO A 20-year-old race car driver has died after being struck by NASCAR champion Tony Stewart (left inset) during a night race in Canandaigua, New York. Authorities are investigating the crash during the Empire Super Sprints, but say no criminal charges are currently pending against Stewart. Witnesses have reported that veteran NASCAR driver Stewart hit young racer Kevin Ward Jr (inset right), who was walking on the track after they collided on a prior lap (top right). The racers were allegedly warned to slow down when Ward Jr was hit. Paramedics were pictured tending to Ward Jr after the crash (bottom right).
Race car driver, 20, killed after being run over by NASCAR champion Tony Stewart as he angrily approached star’s car to argue over previous lap.
- Kevin Ward Jr and NASCAR champion Tony Stewart collided on the track Saturday night during a sprint car race in Canandaigua, New York
- Ward Jr got out of his car and angrily approached Stewart’s vehicle as the racers were warned two slow down on their next lap
- Stewart’s car then hit Ward Jr and the 20-year-old driver was later pronounced dead
- Race was immediately cancelled and crash is now under investigation
- Stewart was scheduled to compete in another race Sunday, but Regan Smith will not be taking his place
- The incident is being investigated by the Ontario County Sheriff’s department
- There are no criminal charges pending at this time
A 20-year-old race car driver has died after being struck by three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart.
Authorities are investigating the crash which took place during the Empire Super Sprints at the Canandaigua dirt track in New York.
Witnesses have reported that veteran NASCAR driver Stewart hit young racer Kevin Ward Jr who was walking on the track after they collided on a prior lap.
Pointing fingers: Ward Jr was spun around by Stewart on the first lap, and he is then seen getting out of the car and approaching Stewart on foot as he comes around for another turn
Tragic end: But just seconds later, Stewart’s car hits Ward Jr and sends the 20-year-old flying. Ward Jr was later pronounced dead
A video purporting to be of the incident was posted on YouTube early Sunday and appeared to show Stewart spinning Ward Jr’s car. The race was then put in ‘caution’ mode, with a yellow flag that warns the drivers to slow down. A driver, believed to be Ward, is seen exiting his crashed vehicle and gesticulating at the other racers as they pass him. The racer then steps into the oncoming traffic before he is suddenly struck and thrown into the air. In the next scene emergency workers are seen rushing to his aid. Ward Jr was apparently not struck at racing speed, but sprint cars can go as fast at 140 mph. The track canceled the remainder of the Empire Super Sprints slate within five minutes while the Ontario County Sheriff’s Department says its officers are at the track investigating but do not see it as a criminal matter.
Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said Stewart was ‘visibly shaken’ and had been cooperative in the investigation. Authorities were asking spectators and others to turn over any video they recorded of the crash.
‘This is right now being investigated as an on-track crash and I don’t want to infer that there are criminal charges pending,’ Povero said. ‘When the investigation is completed, we will sit down with the district attorney and review it. But I want to make it very clear: there are no criminal charges pending at this time.’
Collision: NASCAR driver Tony Stewart was said to have hit another driver walking on the track
Sheriff Philip Povero said Stewart, 42, was ‘fully cooperative’ and had been questioned and released. Witnesses at the track also described the collision. According to onlookers Ward was spun out of the race by Stewart and was hit by the three-time Nascar champion as he passed the spot on his next lap. ‘It happened in Turn 2,’ Adam Dulski told USA Today.
‘The prior lap, Tony had gotten into him – just spun him, nothing big, just spun him around. The caution came out. He hopped out of the car – the driver of the 13 [Kevin Ward] … he hopped out to go and yell and point a finger at Tony, typical thing.’ ‘Tony came around … the back end slid out, and he definitely caught him – I couldn’t tell if it was with the front or the back of the car. … The body made contact with the car and went sliding across the track a long distance, at least 50 feet. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen.’
Struck: Despite the attention of emergency services, Ward Jr (pictured) was pronounced dead on Saturday night
Ward Jr pictured with a woman who appears to be his girlfriend in a photo posted to his Facebook
Too late: Paramedics tend to a gravely injured Ward Jr on the track Saturday night
Aftermath: A video of the incident showed Ward Jr flung 50ft down the track after the collision
Flowers lay next to the front entrance of the Canandaigua Motorsports Park on August 10, the morning after Ward Jr was killed
Calls to Stewart’s representatives were not immediately returned.
Stewart was scheduled to race again on Sunday at the Cheez-it 355, but will now be replaced by Regan Smith, according to Stewart’s competition director Greg Zipadelli. That conflicts earlier reports from Zipadelli that Stewart would continue to race, despite the tragedy. NASCAR said it would not stop Stewart from competition. 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.’ According to his website Kevin Ward Jr has been racing since age four when he first started go-karting. He started Sprint Car racing in 2011. 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.
The competition director of Stewart’s racing team says he will not race in another competition scheduled for Sunday. Pictured above in April 2014
Stewart often competes in extracurricular events. The multimillionaire is known to participate in races with purses worth less than $3,000 and drive alongside drivers of varying ages and talent levels. 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, and won in his return, at Tri-City Motor Speedway in Michigan. But the broken leg cost him the entire second-half of last season and sidelined him during NASCAR’s important Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Stewart wasn’t cleared to get back in a race car until February, the day the track opened for preparations for NASCAR’s season-opening Daytona 500 began. ‘Everybody has hobbies. Everybody has stuff they like to do when they have downtime, and that’s just what it is for me,’ he said last month following his return to sprint car racing. ‘That’s what I like to do when I have extra time. I don’t think there is anything wrong with doing it. I feel like there are a lot of other things I could be doing that are a lot more dangerous and a lot bigger waste of time with my time off do than doing that.’
Dropping out: Stewart-Haas Racing crew chief Greg Zipadelli (pictured) announces that Stewart will not compete in the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International
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