Tony Stewart struck and killed fellow driver Kevin Ward Jr. during a sprint car race at Canandaigua, Motorsports Park in Upstate New York last Saturday night.
USA Today reports that Ward was ran over on the track after he got out of his vehicle. The 20-year-old driver went out of his vehicle after being spun out of the track by Stewart himself. The promising racer was walking towards the NASCAR champion when the No. 14 car of Stewart hit him head on and sent the fellow racer down on the tracks. Medical emergency response teams took Ward by ambulance to Thompson Hospital but pronounced him dead on arrival.
Investigators are already looking into the situation and have confirmed that the 43-year-old Stewart was fully cooperative with the process. The NASCAR champ has already withdrawn for the next competition at Watkins Glen while the incident is not being investigated as criminally related.
"There are no criminal charges pending at this time," Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero declared during a news conference. "We have reviewed the investigation to this point with the Ontario County district attorney. At this very moment, there are no facts in hand that would substantiate or support a criminal charge, or indicate criminal intent on the part of any individual."
During the middle of Turn 2, Stewart's number 13 car squeezed Ward's vehicle to the outside wall and reversed it. Showing displeasure on the tactic of Stewart, Ward exited his car and marched towards Stewart only be clipped head on and be sent down a few yards from the track.
Ward is an up and coming name in NASCAR as he just started driving sprint cars in 2010, the same year he was able to garner five top five finishes. He was named rookie of the year by Empire Super Sprint in 2012 and in this year, he is running fifth in racing for super sprints.
Tony Stewart is a veteran and has involvement in all facets of racing. The three-time NASCAR champion owns racing tracks, has stakes in multi-tiered NASCAR and sprint cars and a also has a partner who will enter Formula 1.
While Stewart has long established an appeal of a blue-collared worker who rose to the ranks, he is not scott-free with brushes with authorities. In 2010, he was involved in a controversy when he proclaimed embarrassment after being questioned by Aussie police for hitting a track promoter with a helmet over an arguement on over track safety. This temper was also in display in 2002 when he shoved a photographer at Indianapolis. He was also placed on probation for striking Brian Vickers in 2011 at Sonoma.
Authorities have still maintained that they have not charged the NASCAR champ with any raps. Povero explained that the investigation is still ongoing and they are currently reviewing all photos and videos of the incident. They are also looking into the banked dirt surface and the dark suit of Ward and the poorly lit portion of the track. "Certainly that is a dimly lit part of the track," Povero said.
To watch the video of the fatal mishap, see below but be warned that it is graphic in nature:
(Video Courtesy of Youtube/ Law Offices of John M. Phillips)