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NASCAR Driver Tony Stewart Hits And Kills Driver In Apparent Accident

Last night during a race in upstate New York, NASCAR driver Tony Stewart hit and killed another driver in an incident that seems bizarre from beginning to end:

CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. — NASCAR driver Tony Stewart struck and killed a sprint car driver who had climbed from his car and was on the track trying to confront Stewart during a race in upstate New York on Saturday night.

Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said his department’s investigation is not criminal and that Stewart was “fully cooperative” and appeared “very upset” over what had happened.

“He was visibly shaken by this accident,” Povero said.

A video of the crash at Canandaigua Motorsports Park showed driver Kevin Ward Jr., wearing a black helmet and firesuit on a dimly lit track, walking toward Stewart’s car before being hit and hurtled 50 feet.

Povero said the 25-lap race was under caution when Ward was struck. Stewart’s car was behind another before he hit Ward.

“The first car swerved to avoid the driver,” Povero said.

Povero said the driver was pronounced dead Saturday night at a Canandaigua hospital. Stewart was unhurt.

A witness said it appeared Ward was trying to confront Stewart, the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion. The video showed Ward standing to the right of Stewart’s familiar No. 14 car, which seemed to kick out from the rear and hit him.

“The next thing I could see, I didn’t see (the other driver) anymore,” witness Michael Messerly said. “It just seemed like he was suddenly gone.”

Povero said the 43-year-old Stewart, a frequent competitor at local sprint car events, was questioned and released. The sheriff asked for people who recorded video of the crash to provide copies for investigators to review.

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.”

Stewart’s racing team manager Greg Zipadelli said Stewart will race in NASCAR’s event Sunday at Watkins Glen, calling the race “business as usual.”

The dirt track, about 30 miles southeast of Rochester, canceled the remainder of the race and later posted a message on its Facebook page encouraging fans to “pray for the entire racing community of fans, drivers, and families.”

Here’s the video of the post, be advised that it does show Stewart’s car hitting Ward, which some may find disturbing.

From the video, it seems clear to me that Ward foolishly stepped out into the middle of the track during a race to confront Stewart, likely because he blamed him for the collision that happens at the start of the video, and that Stewart simply had no chance of getting out of the way. Nonetheless, tragic.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. PJ says:

    and that Stewart simply had no chance of getting out of the way.

    Stewart was driving behind another car. The driver in that car was able to not run over Ward Jr.

    also this:

    “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.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @PJ:

    Stewart was driving behind another car. The driver in that car was able to not run over Ward Jr.

    Ever drive a car? On the interstate? In rush hour? For some reason or other I think in a race it is even more difficult to see everything that is happening.

    When you hit a throttle on a sprint car, the car sets sideways.

    A lot of other things will cause a car to do that to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  3. JohnMcC says:

    Getting out of a race car during a race and stalking angrily on the track? I say “Darwin”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  4. bill says:

    it’s hard to tell by that angle, not that i wouldn’t put stewart past trying to nudge a guy with his car-he may have hit the gas to avoid him?! sux either way, hate to actually see someone die.

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  5. Jr says:

    It seems to me that Stewart accelerated to avoid hitting him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  6. ernieyeball says:

    The late Mr. Ward Jr. must have been high on carbon monoxide fumes. I can not imagine any sober person, let alone a race car driver, thinking that walking on a race track during a race is a good idea.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  7. CSK says:

    He walked right out into the middle of the track. That’s insane. It’s like walking out into the middle of the Long Island Expressway during rush hour. What did he think would happen?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  8. EddieInCA says:

    I’ve had one car accident in my life. I’m 55 years old and have been driving for 39 years. It happened going 55 miles an hour when the car in front of my swerved to avoid a tire in the road. I could not avoid it. Ran right over it, causing me to veer left and hit a guard rail. Had that tire been a human, I’d have run it over. Human reflexes are what they are. By the time Tony Stewart saw a HUMAN in the middle of the track, right in his way, after the other car swerved away, there is nothing he could do – even with his reflexes.

    Sad.
    Tragic.
    Stupid.
    Unnecessary.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  9. gVOR08 says:

    @CSK: Even in my small time racing experience I know that until workers clear traffic and come to get you to a safe place, you stay belted inside the car.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. Tyrell says:

    @EddieInCA: As of today Tony has not returned to driving. Jeff Burton is in his car at Michigan. This thing of drivers walking onto the track should have been stopped years ago. I have even seen some drivers climb the fence to exit rather than cross a track of cars going around. When there is a wreck or car stopped on the track, racing officials and emergency crews should assist every step from the car to the infield. At no time should a driver be on their own like that.
    They say that there is another video of this accident, but evidently it shows nothing new.
    Think about it: night racing, dark racing suit, cars going everywhere, even caution speeds can be high, and cars that are on the edge of being out of control.
    Courts have been very reluctant to delve into the sports arenas and get involved in policing various events.

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