A 20-year-old Sprint Car driver from New York was killed Saturday night after being struck by another car being driven by three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart during a sprint car race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York.
Kevin Ward, Jr., a driver in the Lucas Oil Empire Super Sprints series, was killed after he was struck while walking towards Stewart’s car following a crash involving the two drivers. Ward was caught under the right-rear tire of Stewart’s car and thrown nearly 25 feet, where he lay motionless on the track.
Safety workers arrived on the scene and immediately began attending to Ward. He was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead at 11:15 pm.
Race officials cancelled the remaining portion of the race following the incident.
Investigators from the Ontario County Sheriff’s office were called to the scene and seized both race cars. Ontario County Sheriff Phillip Povero confirmed Stewart was cooperating in their ongoing investigation and was “very shaken" by the incident.
Stewart, who co-owns Stewart-Haas Racing which fields three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams, has not been charged and was not arrested following the incident.
NASCAR officials have yet to comment on the situation, however Stewart-Haas Racing later released a statement about the incident.
“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."
Stewart-Haas Racing Vice President of Competition Greg Zipadelli later confirmed that Stewart would participate in Sunday’s NASCAR race at Watkins Glen, where he is scheduled to start 13th.
What had unfolded Saturday night was just the latest in a series of incidents that has fallen on Stewart while participating in sprint car events. Stewart, who won multiple sprint car titles in his early racing career, runs his own sprint car team and participates in races whenever he gets the opportunity – running as many of 70 events a year
In July 2013 at this same track, Stewart triggered a 15-car crash that seriously injured a 19-year-old sprint car driver. Just a month later, Stewart himself was seriously injured in a sprint car crash at Southern Iowa Speedway that sidelined him for the remainder of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
In Saturday’s race, Stewart was running his own sprint car in the Empire Super Sprint series race at the track, which is located about 60 mile from Watkins Glen International, where Stewart had qualified for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race earlier in the day.
On lap 14 of the 25-lap feature race, Stewart and Ward were running side by side going into turn one when Stewart appeared to drift high into the corner, pinching Ward’s car into wall and sending him spinning.
Ward extricated himself from the car and appeared unhurt. As the field came around under caution, Ward began walking toward the inside of the track angrily gesturing at Stewart when it appeared Ward was struck by the right-rear tire of Stewart’s car.
Witnesses reported Stewart immediately stopped his car and ran to check on Ward.
Ward, from Port Leyden, N.Y., began racing go-karts at age four and won multiple championships before moving on to micro sprints. In 2010, he began competing in 360 Sprint Cars, winning the Empire Super Sprint Rookie of the Year in 2012. At the time of Saturday night’s accident, he was listed as seventh in points, with no wins, two top-fives and four top-tens.