Tony Stewart will not race today for the Watkins Glen International for the 29th Annual Cheez-It 355. Regan Smith will pilot the #14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for the race at Watkins Glen.
Saturday night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park during an event for the Empire Super Sprints series dirt track, Tony Stewart hit and killed another driver. Kevin Ward Jr., 20, died from his injuries incurred during the accident.
The accident occurred after Ward’s sprint car hit the outside wall during lap 14 of a 25 lap race. A video of the incident show Ward out of his car, walking on the track towards the race cars, which had slowed down for the caution flag. Ward points his finger and appears to be yelling in the direction of the #14 car of Tony Stewart, one car swerves to avoid Ward, who continues to walk into the path of oncoming cars. Stewart’s car passes close to Ward, and it appears that the right rear tire hits him, throwing him down the track.
Stewart’s team director Greg Zipadelli announced Sunday morning that Stewart his decided not to drive in the event for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
“We gave Tony (Stewart) some tine to sleep on it. He feels strongly this is the right thing to do,” Zipadelli said. “All you can do is what you feel is right, and we feel this is right. We get through today and do it the best we can as a group.”
“He’s going through a tough time. It’s emotional for him.” Zipadelli said.
Ontario County Sheriff Philip C Povero said, “Stewart has fully cooperated with the police officers that are investigating. He was visibly shaken by this incident and has promised his continuing cooperation in the investigation,” and “He (Stewart) acknowledges the collision with the driver.”
Ward was transported to a local hospital where the driver was pronounced dead at 11:15 p.m. ET, but Sheriff Povero told reporters he died before it arrived at the hospital.
No charges have been filed against Stewart in connection with the death of 20 year old driver Kevin Ward Jr.
“This is right now being investigated as an on-track crash and I don’t want to infer that there are criminal charges pending,” said Povero. “I would only say that the investigation, when it is completed, we will sit down with the district attorney and review it. But I want to make it very clear there are no criminal charges pending at this time.”
NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said earlier Sunday morning, “Everything that’s been made available to us at this time would not preclude Stewart from participating in this event here today, but its 9:30 in the morning.”
After the announcement that Stewart would not compete, NASCAR released this 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.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted Sunday: “We will all loose someone in our time. When a loss is sudden and unexpected, the pain and sadness is suffocating. Prayers for the Ward family.”