Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tony Stewart Under Investigation After Killing Kevin Ward, Jr. In Sprint Car Race

Racing fans are in shock at the actions of NASCAR driver Tony Stewart during a dirt track sprint car race last night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York that has taken the life of a fellow race car driver, Kevin Ward, Jr. Amateur video shows Stewart's car spinning out the car driven by Ward, bringing out the caution. As many race car drivers do in reaction to such incidents, Ward jumped out of his car and began waving his hands as Stewart came back around the track. According to witnesses, Stewart gunned his car as he approached Ward, causing it to slide sideways. Ward was pulled underneath the rear of Stewart's car as it was struck by the rear tire. Horrified fans looked on at Ward's lifeless body lying on the track as safety crew members arrived to help him. The New York Post has this account from another driver:
You can hear the motor rev just before the car hits the driver.
Tyler Graves, a sprint-car racer and friend of Ward’s, told Sporting News in a phone interview that he was sitting in the Turn 1 grandstands and saw everything.
“Tony pinched him into the frontstretch wall, a racing thing,” Graves said. “The right rear tire went down, he spun on the exit of (Turn) 2. They threw the caution and everything was toned down. Kevin got out of his car. … He was throwing his arms up all over the place at Tony for most of the corner.
“I know Tony could see him. I know how you can see out of these cars. When Tony got close to him, he hit the throttle. When you hit a throttle on a sprint car, the car sets sideways. It set sideways, the right rear tire hit Kevin, Kevin was sucked underneath and was stuck under it for a second or two and then it threw him about 50 yards.”
Graves said he didn’t believe it was intentional.
“You never mean to do something like that,” Graves told Sporting News. “Kevin was pissed and he let Tony know. And Tony was trying to give the message back that he wasn’t happy either. He went over the line with it.”
Stewart, a Columbus native, was in Watkins Glen, New York where NASCAR's road coarse race is being run today at the Watkins Glen International Speedway as part of NASCAR's Sprint Cup series. A police investigation of the incident is being launched to determine if criminal charges will be filed against Stewart. The sprint car race was cancelled following the incident. Stewart still plans to race in today's race despite the uproar over his actions last night.

Stewart has been criticized in some corners for continuing to participate in dirt track races following a July, 2013 wreck in which he broke his leg, an injury that took him out of NASCAR racing for the rest of the season last year. Nonetheless, Stewart returned to sprint car racing last month in his #14 sprint car.

According to, Ward was only 17 years old; however, news reports have listed his age as 20. He began go-kart racing when he was only four years old. Ward had raced his #13 Rider Racing Engines sprint car in the 360 Sprint Car division since 2010 where he was still looking for his first victory. Stewart-Haas racing released the following statement:
"A tragic accident took place last night during a sprint car race in which Tony Stewart was participating. Tony was unhurt, but a fellow competitor lost his life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. We’re still attempting to sort through all the details and we appreciate your understanding during this difficult time."
According to CNN, Stewart plans a 1:00 p.m. press conference today to address last night's tragedy before getting in his car to race at Watkins Glen.

UPDATE: Stewart has had a change of heart. His racing team now says he will not race at Watkins Glen today. Regan Smith will replace him according to the AP. Below is footage of a press conference at which Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero discusses his office's ongoing investigation, emphasizing that no criminal charges have been filed at this time against Stewart.

This incident with Matt Kenseth where Stewart throws his helmet at Kenseth's car and threatens to "run him over every chance he get" will come back to haunt him.

Stewart released the following statement early this afternoon on Ward's tragic death:
“There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr. It’s a very emotional time for all involved, and it is the reason I’ve decided not to participate in today’s race at Watkins Glen. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this tragedy.”


Anonymous said...

Stewart may face racing sanction, maybe, but he won't be convicted. Dumbass walks halfway down the track, leaving competitors a limited room to avoid him. Stewart didn't center-punch him, so it can easily be argued that Ward violated racing rules by getting out of his car and that he failed to calculate the correct distance to competitors while on foot.

Did Ward walk right at Stewart's car, trying to force him to brake or swerve?

The lesson here is don't play chicken with some people in this world, especially when you're not in your car.

Anonymous said...

Just watched it again. Dumbass was over halfway across the track when he got hit. Stewart was not in an unreasonable place on the track.

Racing will respond to this by banning on-track gestures at cars.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I don't excuse Ward's actions. We see it repeated in NASCAR races all the time. Stewart himself has done the same thing. I recall an incident a year or two ago where he ran down the track and threw his helmet at Matt Kenseth's car in anger and threatened afterwards to run him down at every opportunity the rest of the season.

Anonymous said...

Ward runs around a RACE TRACK and gets hit. Is anyone surprised here? Tony can be a hot head but this guy was STUPID. Can't fix stupid. I suspect Ward's family will sue Tony too.

Anonymous said...

Lawsuits in sports are difficult to win because of a doctrine called "Assumption of the Risk." Also, contributory negligence comes into play here.

Still, the case would be in New York, and some crazy decisions come out of that state.

Look for Stewart to endow a scholarship, or something like that, in Ward's name.

Indy Rob said...

Horrible tragedy.

I looked at the video and the only conclusive thing I can tell is that ward walked down into traffic.

I can not tell if Stewart's vision was blocked or just obstructed, I can't tell from the video if Stewart's car slid up on the dirt or was steered up, in short there is nothing showing that Stewart was trying to hit Ward, while there is stuff on the video showing Ward walking into traffic that was moving about 60 mph.

Gary R. Welsh said...

He wasn't driving 60 mph on a caution.

Anonymous said...

No dog in this fight, not even a race fan but when you do Stupid Things, Bad Things can happen. Was the deceased looking for notoriety by Challenging Tony Stewart? If so He GOT it. Sad, was he 17 or 20? Are 17 year olds legit to race with the Big Boys? Sad as it is maybe a little humility on All sides would have gone a long way and this Tragedy Avoided.

Flogger said...

I cannot understand why Kevin Ward, Jr. would try to walk across the track?? It appears that the car before Stewart's came close to hitting Ward.

It would seem the safe place would have been to stay near the wall. The Rescue units were there rather quickly.

I never understood this whole NASCAR thing of bumping another car from the rear during a race. Do they not realize or care that you could kill or injure someone doing this rear end bumping.

Anonymous said...

P.S. So much for helmets.

Anonymous said...

Is anyone really surprised? I'm not. Granted this was not a NASCAR race but NASCAR has been tolerating and promoting this type of behavior for a long time now. When the crowds started to thin and TV ratings took a tank then stock racing turned into a freak show to attract viewers. No place for this idoicy in any motorsports.

LamLawIndy said...

Sad that a twenty-year-old young man is now deceased. Prayers for his soul & for the comfort of his family.

Legally, I'd be surprised if anything comes of this: Ward was on foot in the middle of oncoming sprint cars. The #45 car nearly hit Ward before Stewart did. Tough to see how any criminal or civil liability attaches to this sad event.

Anonymous said...

Stewart did what he always does...get the last word in...he revved the motor and spun the tires as he approached the kid as if to say 'get back in your car, punk'..that's Stewart's style...AFTER HE HAD PUT THE KID INTO THE WALL THE PRECEDING LAP! Unfortunately, Stewart's brat-like behavior went awry, and cost the young racer his life. Sure, he was foolish for running down to the bottom to get a piece of Stewart, but he didn't deserve the consequence. And if any of you believe that Stewart didn't see him...any of you....then you've never been in a sprint car and don't have a good faith basis for your belief. If Stewart didn't see him, then Stewart should not be racing ANYWHERE.
If the County prosecutor has a sufficient budget, he'll prosecute. And if honest sprintcar drivers testify, he'll get convicted. But there are no winners here. Just a dead kid, a grieving family, and a bully still being a bully.

Anonymous said...

The whole thing stinks. Ward Jr. should not have been out of the car running around in incoming traffic. Also, Stewart should have made sure to stay way out of his way. No way Stewart meant to kill the guy.

Anonymous said...

And if you knew what you were talking about, we'd listen. Im from a race car family. I know sprint cars. 1. Read up on how sprint cars work.
2. Even with TS hot temper, he would never be that neglagent. He was severally hurt last year. He knows what can happen.