NASCAR’s Tony Stewart hits, kills driver at dirt-track race in New York

Updated 12:00 PM EDT, Mon August 11, 2014
01:38 - Source: CNN
NASCAR's Tony Stewart hits, kills driver

Story highlights

NEW: "All options remain available," sheriff says

Video shows Stewart's car hitting Kevin Ward Jr. as he walked on track near vehicle

Tony Stewart says he can't describe how sad he is after the accident

(CNN) —  

Although NASCAR driver Tony Stewart is not currently facing criminal charges in the death of another driver, he is not officially in the clear.

“This is an ongoing investigation, and all options remain available,” Sheriff Philip C. Povero of Ontario County, New York, said Monday. “We’re continuing to gather and analyze every piece of evidence we can.”

Stewart hit and killed another driver who was walking on a track during a dirt-track race in upstate New York on Saturday night, authorities said.

Kevin Ward Jr., 20, died from injuries suffered in the incident at the Empire Super Sprints series event at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park.

The track is about a two-hour drive from Watkins Glen International race track, where Stewart had been scheduled to race in a NASCAR event Sunday.

“There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.,” Stewart said Sunday, according to a written statement tweeted by NASCAR. “It’s a very emotional time for all involved. … My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this tragedy.”

Stewart decided not to take part in Sunday’s NASCAR event at Watkins Glen, New York. Whether he competes in this weekend’s event is still undecided.

“Our hearts go out to Kevin’s family,” said Stewart’s team director, Greg Zipadelli. “This is a very tough, very emotional time for everybody – his family, our family at Stewart-Haas Racing.”

“The decision to compete in this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Michigan will be Tony’s, and he will have as much time as he needs to make that decision. It is still an emotional time for all involved, Tony included. He is grieving, and grief doesn’t have a timetable,” spokesman Mike Arning said.

On Saturday night, Ward’s sprint car hit the outside wall during lap 14 of a 25-lap race, Povero said.

A video of the incident shows two cars coming out of a turn with Stewart’s No. 14 car sliding up the track toward Ward’s No. 13 car. The two cars get close and appear to make contact before Ward’s car hits the wall and spins out. Another car narrowly avoids hitting the 13 car as its sits on the track facing the wrong direction.

Ward gets out of his crashed car, walking on the track toward the racecars, which had slowed for a yellow flag. Ward points a finger and appears to be yelling. One car swerves to avoid Ward on the half-mile dirt track.

Stewart’s car passes close to Ward, and it appears that its right rear tire hits him.

An ambulance took Ward to a hospital, but he died before it arrived, Povero said.

“Stewart has fully cooperated” with an investigation, Povero said. “He acknowledges the collision with the driver.” It appeared to be an on-track incident, Povero said.

Ward began racing at 4

Stewart’s spokesman said officials are trying to sort out the details.

“A tragic accident took place last night during a sprint car race in which Tony Stewart was participating,” Mike Arning said. “Tony was unhurt, but a fellow competitor lost his life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”

A competitor who runs the car that swerved around Ward expressed sympathy.

“Our deepest condolences go to the entire Ward Family. We are one huge ESS family, you will be truly missed bud! #RIP13,” Hebing Racing tweeted.

Tony Stewart did not drive Sunday in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International race track.
PHOTO: Jerry Markland/Getty Images
Tony Stewart did not drive Sunday in a NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International race track.

Stewart is a three-time champion in NASCAR’s top division and won a sprint car championship in 1995.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and fellow competitors of Kevin Ward Jr.,” NASCAR said in a written statement Sunday. “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.”

Stewart is a three-time champion in NASCAR’s top division and won a sprint car championship in 1995.

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CNN’s Chris Welch, Jason Durand and Stephanie Gallman contributed to this report.