Early this morning, the decision was made for Tony Stewart to pull out of today's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen, N.Y. It was announced by the Stewart-Haas competition director Greg Zipadelli.
Twenty year-old Kevin Ward, Jr. died last night after an on-track accident. He was clipped by Stewart's car on a dimly lit dirt track during a race. Ward had crashed his vehicle, gotten out and walked onto the track where he was struck. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital in Canandaigua, N.Y.
Zipadelli told media at a televised press conference that Stewart made the decision to scratch himself from today's race and "...feels strongly that this is the right thing to do." That is a change of heart after a night to sleep on it, and it doesn't make it any easier for Tony Stewart's pursuit of a fourth NASCAR championship, as the current standings indicate.
Sheriff Philip C. Povera, of Ontario County, N.Y. took questions on camera from assembled press today and indicated that Stewart was cooperating with his office while an investigation is underway. He stressed that there are no pending charges against the driver.
"Mr. Stewart has fully cooperated. He was visibly shaken by this incident and has promised his continuing cooperation. Right now this is being investigated as an on-track crash and I do not want to infer that there are criminal charges pending. I would only say that when the investigation is completed, we will sit down with the district attorney and review it."
According to reports on ESPN.com Ward's vehicle spun into a wall and crashed. He promptly got out, choosing to not wait for medical personnel, and walked onto the track, seemingly in search of Stewart's #14 car as it came around the track again. He was clipped by Stewart and his body was thrown almost 50 feet in the air before coming to rest. Race officials canceled the rest of the contest after the crowd who witnessed it all was "horrified" according to Sheriff Povero.
Today's race will go on as scheduled, but without Tony Stewart who has to contemplate what occurred and deal with the knowledge that a fellow racer died after contact with his vehicle.