Kevin Ward Jr., a 20-year-old race car driver, was killed Saturday night after he was struck on the track by NASCAR star Tony Stewart, according to Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff Philip C. Povero. During a sprint car race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, Ward was spun out by Stewart, got out of his car to show his displeasure and then was struck by Stewart’s car, sending Ward sliding down the track, fellow sprint car racer Tyler Graves and witness Adam Dulski told USA TODAY Sports.
Povero confirmed the driver was taken by ambulance to Thompson Health and was pronounced dead on arrival. The Ontario County Sheriff’s Department confirmed the dead driver’s identity later Sunday morning. “This is an ongoing investigation of an on-track crash,” Povero said. Povero indicated Stewart, 43, was ”fully cooperative” and that the incident is not being investigated as a criminal matter. The sheriff’s department said the cars involved were taken to private garages. “Next is continuing interviews, a continued evaluation of evidence we have, including video, and there is certainly going to be an evaluation of medical evidence when it is collected from the autopsy,” Povero said. Mike Arning, a spokesman for NASCAR – Stewart’s team released a statement early Sunday morning: “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. We’re still attempting to sort through all the details and we appreciate your understanding throughout this difficult time.” The dirt track, about 30 miles southeast of Rochester, canceled the remainder of the race and later posted a message on its Facebook page encouraging fans to “pray for the entire racing community of fans, drivers, and families.” NASCAR did not respond to USA TODAY Sports’ request for comment.
The Ontario County Sheriff’s Department confirmed deputies were on the scene and investigating an incident at the track before Povero spoke with the media around 3 a.m. Sunday morning. Ward, who raced the No. 13 sprint car at the track, started racing go-karts in 1998 at 4, according to kevinwardracing.com.