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Tony Stewart issues statement after he struck and killed racer

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Stewart-Haas Racing’s Tony Stewart, who was driving a sprint car that struck and killed fellow driver Kevin Ward Jr. Saturday night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, issued a statement Sunday afternoon regarding the accident.

“There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.,” Stewart said in a statement sent to NASCAR media members. “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.”

After Ward’s car hit the wall in the sprint car race, the 20-year-old driver exited his car and amateur video shows him going down onto the track surface where he was struck by Stewart.

The Ontario County's Sheriff's Department said in a press release posted on the department’s web site Sunday, “On Saturday August 9, 2014, at or about 10:30 PM there was an on track incident at the Exit of Turn 2 at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park, during the Lucas Oil Super Sprint Feature race. The race was in lap 14 of a 25 lap race, when one car lost control and spun coming to rest along the outside retaining wall. The race was immediately put into caution, slowing the cars on the track. The driver of the car that spun, exited the race car and walked down the track onto the racing surface. Two racecars traveling in tandem approached as the driver continued down the track, gesturing to the two approaching cars. The first car swerved to avoid the driver out on the track. The second car, operated by Tony Stewart, struck the driver. The driver was treated by on track medical staff and was transported to F.F. Thompson Hospital where he was pronounced deceased at 11:15 PM. At this point, Mr. Stewart has cooperated with the investigation, which is ongoing. The Sheriff's Office has asked the individuals who possess amateur video, to please make contact with this office so that copies of the video accounts can be obtained for review. “

Stewart was scheduled to drive in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday at Watkins Glen but decided not to drive and SHR tapped NASCAR Nationwide driver Regan Smith to driver the No. 14 for the team. Regan was flown to the track in time to start the race, although he had to start from the back of the field. Smith competed in the NASCAR Nationwide race at the same road course track Saturday afternoon.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and fellow competitors of Kevin Ward Jr.,” NASCAR said earlier in the day in a statement. “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.”