"I drove right by him," Kinney told NBC News in a phone interview Monday. "He looked a little bit angry. I didn’t think much of it. A lot of drivers do that." Kinney conceded that it wasn't a good idea for Ward to get out of his car and run onto the track towards other cars as they passed by as a lot of drivers do when they are upset about an on-track crash. "People get a little carried away. I actually got a little bit angry at a fellow racer last year," he said. "You don’t really think when you get out of the car. You just want to let ’em know what you’re thinking." "But nobody can speak for Tony," Kinney said. "Only Tony knows exactly what happened." He added, "I seen Kevin clear as day. Nobody else ran into him, either."
Kinney described Ward as "a clean racer and a good guy." "Everybody with the racing family, they’re super close. They were crying," he said. "It didn’t seem real. It doesn’t matter if it was Tony or not. It was just — it didn’t seem real. It was just an eerie feeling in the pits."
|Ward Jr. beat Stewart on a regular basis and was just as competitive. Did Stewart's hot-head ego get the best of him on Saturday night and did he try to graze Ward to show him who's boss and misjudge, resulting in Ward being run over? Only Stewart knows for sure.|
Driver Matt Tanner, a friend of Ward's, was a few cars back from the collision. Ward had been a good friend for years, a member of a small, tight group of drivers who traveled to various races around New York state, parts of Canada and Pennsylvania.
"I saw his car sitting there and when the ambulances pulled up I realized what was happening," Tanner said.
He hasn't watched the video and doesn't plan to.
"Your emotions are running so high. Stewart's known for being competitive, and Kevin was just as competitive," said Tanner.
So competitive that he'd take his life into his own hands by stepping into traffic in a black firesuit on a dark track?
No one will know for sure why Ward made the treacherous decision to stalk Stewart.
But perhaps he was inspired by Stewart himself. Known for his volcanic temper, Stewart is among the drivers who made highlight reels by tossing helmets at windshields or throwing punches at competitors. The action captivates fans and is part of NASCAR's allure — and inspires the next generation to mimic the bumping and brawling of their heroes.
What better way for a young driver to make a name for himself than being the one that stood up to Smoke? See more at AP Story
08/12/14 There has been speculation that the death of Kevin Ward Jr. came after a rivalry between Ward and Stewart.
'Tony Stewart and Kevin have raced against each other and they've always had a thing for each other,' friend Charlie Dorn, 21, told the New York Daily News. 'Kevin always beats him and Tony has crashed into him a few times and I think every time they race, Kevin saw it as an extra challenge.'
But the spats are just the latest for Stewart – whom the New York Times called 'NASCAR's resident hothead'.
Like Ward on Saturday, Stewart, the fourth-highest paid NASCAR driver, has often climbed out of his car following collisions to give the driver a piece of his mind.
Most notably was in August 2012, when a raging Stewart threw his helmet at Matt Kenseth's car during a Tennessee race. The helmet hit the vehicle square on the hood as it sped past.
Afterwards, Stewart said he would 'run over' Kenseth 'every chance [he] got'.
Then in March 2013, he accused driver Joey Logano of blocking his car in a race in Fontana, California and when it was over, he stormed towards him, shoved him and threatened to run him over.
The two men were eventually separated by their crews, but Stewart remained fuming.
'If he ever turns down across in front of me again, I don't care what lap it is, he won't make it through the other end of it,' he said after a confrontation with driver Joey Logano in March 2013.
'Dumb little [expletive] drives us clear down to the end field. He wants to [expletive] about everyone else but he's the one that drives like a little [expletive]. I'm gonna bust his ass,' he added to Fox.
Telephone Interview of Witness in Tony Stewart / Kevin Ward Racing Incident
Pages and Pages of Tony Stewart Fight videos. Clearly Tony Stewart has an anger management problem.
Hot head Stewart fights with Irwin