Every driver’s worst nightmare is now part of Sprint Cup driver Tony Stewart’s real world after a fatal and tragic accident during a Sprint Car race on Saturday night.
After an on-track fatal incident in a Sprint Car race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York, word hit the social media circuit that the incident was between NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart and Sprint Car driver, Kevin Ward Jr. Stewart was inside his Sprint Car and hit Ward outside of his car on the track while expressing his dissatisfaction with Stewart’s actions leading to his car spinning into the outside wall in the previous lap.
The caution was out, because of the previous lap spin by Ward. The other competitors, including Stewart were taking their caution circuits around the dirt track, when Ward exited his car walked down the track into the racing groove, with expressive gestures toward Stewart. Ward was wearing a black firesuit and helmet on a dimly lit dirt track and Stewart was behind another competitor when his car reached Ward on the track.
Perspective of what happens next varies, even though everyone is seeing the same video footage of the incident. Presented here is my perspective of what I saw in the video and what I know about Sprint Car racing – out of respect to the family of Kevin Ward, that video is not shown on this site.
Another competitor was directly in front of Stewart, limiting his line of vision until Ward was immediately in front of him on the track and outside of his car. Within a split second, Stewart’s reaction was an acceleration on the throttle as he swerved and tragically hit Ward. Ward then lies motionless on the track, as Stewart stops his Sprint Car about 100 feet down the track. Emergency staff, were immediately at Ward’s side to treat his injuries.
Keep in mind that control of a Sprint Car in addition to the steering wheel, includes using the throttle. Only Tony Stewart knows his intentions with accelerating the throttle at this critical moment. From my perspective Stewart was given a split second to react to Ward’s presence on the track and was trying to avoid exactly what happened when his car fish-tailed and hit Ward on the track.
The track immediately closed down the track, sending fans home while police did their investigation of the incident. Tony Stewart stayed at the track during the investigation, was fully cooperative with police and was later released with no criminal charges as the investigation continues. When the police issued their press release, is when fans learned that Kevin Ward Jr succumbed to his injuries from this incident. View the press release by investigating police, and their statement.
Stewart-Haas Racing via True Speed Communications also released their statement afterward:
“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.”
Sunday morning Greg Zipadelli, VP of Competition at Stewart-Haas Racing addressed the media indicating that Stewart is choosing not to race in the Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen later in the day. Taking his place is JR Motorsports driver Regan Smith. Zipadelli added…
““I support Tony Stewart. I think I’ve shown that over the past 14 years,”
NASCAR also issued the following statement:
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and fellow competitors of Kevin Ward Jr. 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.”
A short while later, Tony Stewart issued the following statement:
“There aren’t enough 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.”
Here’s the bottom line folks, two families are directly affected by this tragic accident and Tony Stewart is heartbroken over the Ward family loss of their dearly loved Kevin Ward Jr. This is a time for the racing community to come together to express their condolences to the Ward family and their support to Stewart who is also grieving and will live with this nightmare for many years to come. Please show your compassion during this very sad time within the world of racing.