Monday, August 11, 2014
Fellow Driver: Saw Kevin Ward, Jr. "Clear As Day," "Nobody Else Ran Into Him"
A fellow driver in the sprint car race where 20-year old Kevin Ward, Jr. was killed after being struck by a race car driven by NASCAR's Tony Stewart is pouring cold water on speculation that poor lighting and Ward's black racing suit made him difficult to make out during the late-night race. Ward ran onto the track after Stewart's car put his car into the wall and the caution flag waved to show his displeasure to Stewart when his car passed by Ward's wrecked car on the next lap. Paul Kinney, a 30-year old driver in Saturday night's sprint car race on the dirt track at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park, told NBC News that he didn't see the collision that claimed Ward's life, but he knew driver visibility didn't contribute to the collision.
"I drove right by him," Kinney told NBC News in a phone interview Monday. "He looked a little bit angry. I didn’t think much of it. A lot of drivers do that." Kinney conceded that it wasn't a good idea for Ward to get out of his car and run onto the track towards other cars as they passed by as a lot of drivers do when they are upset about an on-track crash. "People get a little carried away. I actually got a little bit angry at a fellow racer last year," he said. "You don’t really think when you get out of the car. You just want to let ’em know what you’re thinking." "But nobody can speak for Tony," Kinney said. "Only Tony knows exactly what happened." He added, "I seen Kevin clear as day. Nobody else ran into him, either."
Kinney described Ward as "a clean racer and a good guy." "Everybody with the racing family, they’re super close. They were crying," he said. "It didn’t seem real. It doesn’t matter if it was Tony or not. It was just — it didn’t seem real. It was just an eerie feeling in the pits."
Meanwhile, some media reports aren't helping Stewart win much sympathy. A Daily Mail story drew attention to Stewart's past problems with anger management and often contentious relationship with other drivers and the media. "For more than a decade, he has been seen plowing down pit crew members, threatening to run fellow competitors off the track, shoving drivers in anger and even throwing his helmet at a car," the Daily Mail writes. At least one member of Ward's family has unleashed her anger towards Stewart. Wendi Ward, Kevin's aunt, called Stewart a "dick" who has "caused a deep hurt that should not be there" for her family. Law enforcement officials in Monroe County, New York are still gathering evidence to determine what, if any, charges will be filed against Stewart. Sheriff Philip Povero emphasizes that he had not seen sufficient evidence yet to file charges against Stewart. Stewart could potentially face a wrongful death lawsuit for Ward's death, even if no criminal charges are filed.