NASCAR’s Tony Stewart hits, kills driver at dirt-track race

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ONTARIO COUNTY, N.Y. — NASCAR driver Tony Stewart hit and killed another driver who was walking on a track during a dirt-track race in upstate New York, authorities said early Sunday.

Kevin Ward Jr., 20, died from injuries suffered in the incident, which occurred Saturday night at the Empire Super Sprints series event at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park.

The track is about a two-hour drive from Watkins Glen International race track, where Stewart had been scheduled to race in a NASCAR event Sunday.

“There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.,” Stewart said Sunday, according to a written statement tweeted by NASCAR. “It’s a very emotional time for all involved. … My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this tragedy.”

Stewart’s team director, Greg Zipadelli, said Sunday morning the driver has decided not to drive in the event.

“Our hearts go out to Kevin’s family,” Zipadelli said. “This is a very tough, very emotional time for everybody — his family, our family at Stewart-Haas Racing.”

On Saturday night, Ward’s sprint car hit the outside wall during lap 14 of a 25-lap race, Ontario County Sheriff Philip C. Povero said.

A video of the incident shows two cars coming out of a turn with Stewart’s No. 14 car sliding up the track toward Ward’s No. 13 car. The two cars get close and appear to make contact before Ward’s car hits the wall and spins out. Another car narrowly avoids hitting the 13 car as its sits on the track facing the wrong direction.

Ward gets out of his crashed car, walking on the track toward the race cars, which had slowed for a yellow flag. Ward points a finger and appears to be yelling. One car swerves to avoid Ward on the half-mile dirt track.

Stewart’s car passes close to Ward, and it appears that its right rear tire hits him.

An ambulance took Ward to a hospital, but he died before it arrived, Povero told reporters.

“Stewart has fully cooperated” with an investigation, Povero said. “He acknowledges the collision with the driver.”

Povero said it appeared to an on-track incident.

“But I want to make it very clear, there are no criminal charges pending at this time,” he said.

At an afternoon news conference, Povero said investigators had gone to Watkins Glen and hoped to speak with Stewart again.

Ward, from Port Leyden, New York, was in his fifth season in the Empire Super Sprints series. He began racing when he was 4, running go-kart events.

Stewart’s spokesman said they are trying to sort out the details.

“A tragic accident took place last night during a sprint car race in which Tony Stewart was participating,” Mike Arning said. “Tony was unhurt, but a fellow competitor lost his life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”

A competitor, which runs the car that swerved around Ward, expressed sympathy.

“Our deepest condolences go to the entire Ward Family. We are one huge ESS family, you will be truly missed bud! #RIP13,” Hebing Racing tweeted.

Stewart is a three-time champion in NASCAR’s top division and also won a sprint car championship in 1995.

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

Regan Smith will replace Stewart on Sunday, Zipadelli said.

Stewart also owns a dirt race track in New Weston, Ohio, and has frequently raced sprint cars during the NASCAR season. He broke a leg last year in a crash that ended his racing season. He has raced the full NASCAR season this year, but only returned to sprint cars in July.

Editor’s note: Unedited video of the alleged incident was posted to YouTube early Sunday morning. The video is graphic. Viewer discretion advised. 


  • james

    Your an idiot… maybe you should be crucified for passing judgement on what was clearly an accident… the driver who was killed shouldn’t have been out if his car

    • Sandra K Arcuri

      This was no accident.If you watch the video Stewart sped up when he got to Ward and swerved to hit him.Stewart should not only lose his liesense but should also have the 3 wins he has taken away.Stewart has a bad temper and he will kill again.He has put people into the wall any time they get close to him.I hope Wards family sues him for everything his has.It would be well deserved.This is not the first person stewart has done this..He needs to be taken completely out of racing.

      • shhcrush

        No he did not speed up. . That kid should have stayed near his car until the track was clear, instead of getting out angry & walking into on coming fast traffic. If anything they were both negligent in the matter. I certainly don’t believe that this was intentional.

      • walter powell

        its was a racing accident tony wasnt trying to hit him. those cars are very hard to drive. anyway. there not like a street. car

      • Ken

        Really Sandra? Not the first time? When was the last time someone died from being hit by a car driven by Stewart? Answer? No one. There was nothing intentional unless you are just another blind Stewart hating NASCAR nut. Get over it. It was a horrible accident and I guarantee you no one feels worse about this than Stewart.

      • Darrell Parks

        Sandra, you and your co-conspiracy theory fan who posted immediately after you are no doubt “fans” of another driver and let your “passion” make really bad judgement.

      • Darrell Parks

        You are now guilty of slander an libel. Hope Tony sues you. Pull for the driver you like, but don’t be an unthinking knee-jerk ranting on something you really only think you know something about. Also, your frined DJ, you are just as big an unthinking person.

      • Bob

        I watched the Video several times and if you look at Kevins feet you will see his right leg extended and his left leg bent like he was trying to get out of the way. Tony was coming to the outside of the first car shown on the video maybe this could have hampered his vision. 1st of all Kevin should not have gotten out of his car had he not he would still be alive its just that simple land the Sprint Car Organization should see to it that the all the driver should stay in their until the Offical tells them its clear or there is a fire. Look this is not the first time race car drivers have gotten out of their cars and started fights its been going on since racing started back in the 20s. It is truly a tragedy and maybe with a don’t get out rule it will never happen again.

      • Pismire

        Speeding up is how you steer a sprint car. They do not turn on dimes. Their wheels are staggered. Have you ever driven one? Then you wouldn’t know. Look it up. Talk to sprint car drivers. Ward tried to reach into stewarts car, wasn’t fast enough, couldn’t get out of the way, and ended up getting himself killed. Unfortunate.

      • Chris

        Anyone who thinks that incident was on purpose is beyond ignorant. And Tony should sue for slander. You don’t leave your car unless it’s on fire!!!

        Very unfortunate, the thing your condemning Tony of, his temper, was the same undoing of Ward, Jr. He wanted an altercation. Again, so unfortunate…

    • jim

      From the video you see Stewart accelerate and slide outwhile passing ward on the track. Looked like he was purposely coming close to Ward and possibly trying to kick dirt on him. Don’t think he meant to harm him. Either way he should be held responsible. Tony saw him on the track. Pretty obvious what he did. He didn’t slide out until he thought he was BARELY clear of Ward. Not as good a driver as he thought and now a man is dead. He was clear of Ward before he purposely accelerated and kicked out.

    • mac

      tragic, but preventable. what makes NASCAR not sit these guys down and say look, you get out of your car for two reason, car is on fire, or you feel being in the car is a further threat to your safety, other than that, you get out of the car because of emotion, you are done in NASCAR. remember, this was just a dirt track, not NASCAR, but it should carry over to all sport related events involving vehicles. you want to fight on pit lane, or the parking lot, go for it. And when I mean done, you will never race again!

  • Eleanor Rohl

    AND, I am sure that you are one who never has never lost your temper? Those pointing finger needs to realize that when you point at someone, you have 3 fingers pointing back at you. Tony did not do this on purpose, you idiot. Do you think he would be a 3 time NASCAR champion if he was this uncontrolled in his driving? Just another jealous turd.

  • Scott Kitchen

    I am sorry for the families loss and for Tony very tragic. All drivers are instructed to stay in there car till safety personal arrive on the scene. Tony probaly never saw the man because of the blue car in front of him. Very sad.

  • Justin Ashley

    If he couldn’t see the driver on the track, why did he hit the gas and fishtail the car? If you think that was just a random occurrence, you’re an idiot. I haven’t seen the video on tv with sound; however, there are plenty of websites with the video containing full audio. The audio adds an element to the story. While Ward shouldn’t have gotten out of his car, Stewart shouldn’t have tried an intimidation tactic, which obviously didn’t go as planned.

      • Justin Ashley

        He hit him as soon as the rear tires slid out. It just happened to continue after the damage was done. Did you watch the video?

    • chucky

      Hitting Ward could make the car fishtail when the tires broke loose from the track and could make the car swerve. The video does not provide clear evidence that Stewart tried to hit Ward.

    • Steve

      Do you know how a sprint car actually operates? If you did, you wouldn’t have posted this. A sprint car has rear tires that are larger than the front tires. In order to turn a sprint car, you have to hit the gas. When turning left and hitting the gas the rear end swerves right. Where did he clip the young man? With the right rear. What you see is Tony not able to see the young man (blindspot on right side of car; black suit and helmet on victim in poor lighting) and attempting to avoid the person on the track. The car directly in front of Tony barely missed the man on the track, which gave Tony even less time to avoid hitting him.

  • Linda ROBERTS

    Prayers go out to Kevin family. What a terrible tragedy. I don’t understand WHY the young man got out of his car. Everyone that knows anything about raceing at all knows that a NO NO. so sad a horrible accident.

  • kevin

    Things u never expect happen in life. Racing is a part of life. R.I.P. At least the man died doing something he loved.

  • Brent Davis

    I do not follow NASCAR closely but I do feel sorry at the loss of any driver and I feel even worse for the driver who hit him. Putting my self in his shoes , I do not believe I could easily get over this. I had a fellow motorcyclist die in my arms once and it still haunts me to this day.

  • Carolinacompanycowboy

    Could have been at any track in the auto racing world. Maybe why the governing bodies put some drivers under probation after tanglements on track.

  • Terry

    This is a most tragic event for the death of Mr. Ward in this manner. And deepest prayers are sent to his family and friends. I am hearing considerable discussion that there was no intent on the behalf of the driver that hit him and ended up killing him. On the other hand, based on the video it sure seems to rise to at minimum wreckless endangerment. For the investigating police to be so quick to say no potential criminal intention or charges is as irresponsible as was the actions of the driver that hit Mr. Ward.

    • chucky

      They said that because it is true… there are no criminal charges “AT THIS TIME”. That means that they have not taken out criminal charges but there is that possibility once the investigation is complete. Pay attention. :)

  • wally

    Poor guy would still be alive if he had not been mad out on the track jumping around pointing his finger at on coming drivers!!!!

  • David wilson

    Sue. Sue. Sue. That’s what everyone yells. Sue somebody. Maybe one day you will be on the defensive end of a all out lawsuit. Lose what you have due to someone yelling SUE ’em!!

  • chucky

    Hopefully, more videos will come out with better angles so they can see exactly what happened. Race cars with slick tires act differently than the cars we drive on the street. The revving engine could have been because of a tires loosing grip on the track. I’d seriously doubt that any driver would purposefully run over a person. The guy lost his cool and did something he shouldn’t have done and paid the price for it. If you run into traffic, you are assuming a risk and a race track is especially dangerous.

  • Scott Michaels

    Way to spin that headline. Should say accident. Wasn’t like he could see much from inside the car and the other driver was wearing black. Make it sound like he ran him down or something. This is why we can’t believe the media.

  • Janedoe

    It looks like he could have swirved away from the driver and did not. How do you NOT avoid hitting someone better then he did. The footage is unbelievable. Although it does not appear that Stewart initially clipped the othe car. The gentleman should have NEVER gotten out of his car. How tragic…

  • brenda

    If someone was hit and killed on the street walking towards a car because they were upset about something and witnessess saw and heard the driver hit the gas and swerve (whether it be intentional or losing traction) what do you suppose would happen to the driver? I think the driver would be charged with several things including assault with a deadly weapon, manslaughter, etc.

    • Steve

      That is where you would be wrong. This is not a street car on dry pavement in tires that are all equal in size and in good lighting. In order to steer a sprint car, one must hit the gas. He hit the gas to allow his car the chance at avoiding the young man on the track. In a sprint car, when you hit the gas to turn left your rear end actually swerved right. What you see on the video is Tony realizing their is somebody on the track in front of him at the very last second. You cannot apply your knowledge of your street car to how these race cars operate.

  • triple aught

    I have not seen it from enough angles.
    I do think Mr. Stewart has anger problems, if for none other than his past record of being such a sore-head.
    And that may very well come back to haunt him in this situation…

  • JMcIntyre

    It most certainly WAS an accident. Stewart was coming off of a turn with a vehicle in front of him. What do you do when you come out of a turn? ACCELERATE. The kid was hit with a REAR wheel which indicates that Stewart was driving DOWNWARD, AWAY from the kid as he came out of the turn. There was no way for Stewart to see this kid on a dark track with moving traffic in front of him (Stewart.) The kid was walking on a dark track, INTO TRAFFIC, TOWARD Stewart. This is nobody’s fault but the dead man’s.

    The people who think this was intentional are the kind of foolish people who sit on a juries and thinks with body parts other than the brain to come to that erroneous conclusion. They are incapable of using concrete, analytical skills. I’ll bet the lawyers who sue Stewart (and you know that’s coming) would LOVE to have them on their jury.

    • Henry F Krizanovic

      The two cars did not hit. They got squeezed into the rail by the sliding in the mud. The Driver was wrong to get out of the car. if had stayed in the car like he was supposed to he never would have been hit. He walked out into the track in front of the car that squeezed him into the rail to stop the car and going as fast as the car was going, not expecting some fool to walk out in front of his car on the muddy wet ground. God have mercy on both drivers.

  • Sally Miller

    What I don’t understand is Tony hit Ward with his car and Ward wrecked. Then Tony goes all the way around the track comes back and hits him. He had to of seen the wrecked car why didn’t they slow down before they got back to the wreck?

  • Kathy

    I hate this for both sides of the family, I really do… BUT, my son whom is 32 now has been racing since he was 12! YOU DO “NOT” EXIT YOUR CAR OR KART ONTO THE TRACK OUT OF ANGER OR ANY REASON, UNLESS IT IS ON FIRE!!! Those cars are NOT that easy to turn because of the size of tires they have on them! Do you really think for one minute that Tony Stewart meant to hit that guy, kill him & then have to deal with all the legal & emotional, stuff that he is now dealing with AND possible lose his racing career??? Come on people wake up! But then again only Tony & God knows for sure… IT was night racing & yes there are blind spots! I hate it happened & can’t imagine the families heartbreak of their loss, but for crying out loud folks, you just do NOT exit you vehicle out of anger because by then, you do you already have lost control of some of your thinking clearly…….. AND no, I’m not a Tony Stewart fan but still yet…. I’ve seen men jump off their Go-Karts mad, go across the track & get hit, jump out of their race cars or trucks same way this young man did & get hurt or worse!

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