NASCAR hothead Tony Stewart nearly killed a female driver last year on the same track where he mowed down a rival Saturday — and the woman's family told The Post he should be banned from racing.
"I'm upset because last year, Stewart did the same thing to my cousin, Alysha. He pushed her out of the way, broke her back and almost killed her," said Greg Cooper, 44, a cousin of sprint-car driver Alysha Ruggles, on Tuesday.
Ruggles, then 19, suffered a fractured back after her car was struck in a 15-car pileup caused by Stewart at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in July 2013.
Cooper was at the track Saturday when Stewart fatally struck fellow driver Kevin Ward Jr. after Ward angrily got out of his car to confront Stewart about being knocked off course.
Cooper said it was clear to him that Stewart was trying to teach the younger driver a lesson by "stoning'' him with mud, or getting close enough to spray dirt on him. Only things went horribly awry.
"[Stewart] has the audacity to come back this year and thinks he could just push more people around — this time, it was stoning a kid with mud,'' Cooper said.
"Stewart did this on purpose. He saw Ward out there and wanted to say ‘screw you' in some way. He was just too close and ended up hitting him.
"You could see his car do a little whiplash maneuver in the video if you watch it closely. It definitely looked like he was trying to splash mud all over Kevin Ward.
"He's responsible, plain and simple,'' Cooper insisted, adding that he thought Stewart should be banned from racing.
Ontario County authorities are investigating whether the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion may have hit his throttle moments before smashing into Ward. Lighting at the track also is being reviewed.
The investigation is expected to take at least two more weeks, Sheriff Philip Povero said Tuesday.
"Investigators continue to seek witnesses," Povero said.
He told The Post that video taken that night will be crucial in determining whether Stewart is criminally responsible for Ward's death.
"It's in the videos. We need the videos. If they are out there, we'll get them," the sheriff said. NY Post