NASCAR's Tony Stewart hits and kills young driver on dirt track in upstate New York

Despite fatality, 3-time Sprint Cup champion will race today at Watkins Glen

Uploaded from YouTube / Raw video (posting credited to Law Offices of John M. Phillips) shows fatal accident at the Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, after a young driver,  Kevin Ward, Jr., was apparently spun out by NASCAR star Tony Stewart, prompting the driver to get out of his vehicle and point towards Stewart when he was fatally struck. Viewer discretion is advised on the video, which is not for the faint of heart. Still images show the driver pointing, then being run over and being tended to by track personnel after being thrown in the process.
 

Driver Kevin Ward, Jr. points to Tony Stewart before he is struck & killed / Headline Surfer®Tony Stewart runs over young driver / Headline Surfer®Track personnel help driver run over by Tony Stewart / Headline Surfer®DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Tony Stewart struck and killed a 20-year-old driver on a half-mile dirt track in upstate New York on Saturday night after spinning him out on lap 14 of the 25-lap race, according to officials with the Ontario County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating it as a "tragic accident."

Stewart has confirmed through Stewart-Haas Racing executive Greg Zipadelli, his former crew chief, that the NASCAR driver will go ahead and compete in today's noon Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen, which is being televised by ESPN.

USA Today reported it reached out to NASCAR on the death, but got no response. An email from Headline Surfer® to Lesa France Kennedy, head of Daytona International Speedway and its umbrella company, International Speedway Corp., and to her brother, NASCAR CEO Brian France, went unanswered, as well.

NASCAR's Lesa France Kennedyu silent on fatal crash involving T Stewart / Headline Surfer®NASCAR CEO Brian France silent on fatality involving Tony Stewart / Headline Surfer®USA Today reported it reached out to NASCAR on the death, but got no response. An email from Headline Surfer® to Lesa France Kennedy, head of Daytona International Speedway and its umbrella company, International Speedway Corp., and to her brother, NASCAR CEO Brian France, went unanswered, as well.

Snapshot graphic of Tony Stewart / Headline Surfer®Kevin Ward, Jr., run over & killed by NASCAR's Tony Stewart / Headline Surfer®Kevin Ward, Jr., is shown from this snapshot image from his website.
 

Kevin Ward, Jr., who was just 20 years old, got out of his spun out car with a flattened tire and appeared to be walking towards Stewart's approaching car and gesturing to the 43-year-old NASCAR star.

Then suddenly, Ward was clipped by Stewart's car, dragged under a rear tire and then thrown about 50 feet further down the dirt track on Turn 2 where he lay motionless on his back. Ward was pronounced dead a short time later at a local hospital.

Spectators can be heard on a raw video of the horrific scene posted on YouTube screaming in horror with one fan yelling, "Tony Stewart just hit him!"

Mike Arning, a spokesman for NASCAR's Stewart-Haas Racing, which Stewart co-owns, said nothing of Stewart's plans for racing today.

Instead,  a written statement was issued early this morning on Saturday night's tragedy, which read: "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."

The statement continues: "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 during this difficult time."

Here is how the fatality was described to national media outlets, as well as law enforcement and other sources, for which Headline Surfer® was able to confirm basic details  at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York.

Stewart struck Ward, in his fifth season with the Empire Super Sprints circuit, who hard just gotten out of his wrecked vehicle and circled around it, pointing to to Stewart, when the 43-year-old NASCAR driver suddenly clipped him.

Adam Dulski, a 27-year-old witness to the accident, told reporters the carnage happened in Turn 2.

"The prior lap, Tony had gotten into him – just spun him, nothing big, just spun him around," Dulski said. "The caution came out. He hopped out of the car – the driver of the 13 ... he hopped out to go and yell and point a finger at Tony, typical thing."

Dulski, the eyewitness continued, "Tony came around ... the back end slid out, and he definitely caught him – I couldn't tell if it was with the front or the back of the car. ... The body made contact with the car and went sliding across the track a long distance, at least 50 feet. It was the worst thing I've ever seen."

Dulski, the eyewitness continued, "Tony came around ... the back end slid out, and he definitely caught him – I couldn't tell if it was with the front or the back of the car. ... The body made contact with the car and went sliding across the track a long distance, at least 50 feet. It was the worst thing I've ever seen."

Fellow Sprint Cup driver Tyler Graves described the situation this way to USA Today and other media outlets in the wake of the fatal: "Tony and Kevin were battling. … I believe they got together on the front-stretch, Kevin hit the wall and his tire went down. So he spun between (turns) 1 and 2.

Graves said Ward got out of the car after the caution was thrown and "began to walk down the track, pointing right at the 14, throwing his hands all around. The last thing I seen Kevin do was put his finger to his helmet."

Graves said he saw Stewart's car swerve, but his right rear tire struck Ward, who got caught up under the tire and then was thrown in the air. Ward's crumpled body hit the ground and wasn't moving as track personnel ran to his aid and the race was stopped.

Graves said he saw Stewart's car swerve, but his right rear tire struck Ward, who got caught up under the tire and then was thrown in the air. Ward's crumpled body hit the ground and wasn't moving as track personnel ran to his aid and the race was stopped.

This is not Stewart's first go-around with other drivers, track personnel and even fans over the years.

In July of last year, Stewart also was involved in an incident at the Canandaigua track. He sparked a multi-car wreck that sent two drivers to the hospital with injuries.

In fact, Stewart has had run-ins with what some have called "temper-related issues" throughout his career. He was fined and put on probation by both NASCAR and his former racing sponsor, Home Depot, for an incident with a photographer after the Brickyard 400.

Stewart also was investigated by the Sullivan County, Tenn., sheriff's department for allegedly shoving a woman after a race in Bristol. A safety worker from the New Hampshire track accused Stewart of punching him after he wrecked in that July race.

But at least one driver took to Twitter to staunchly defend Stewart in the wake of the deadly encounter on the track.

Danny Dietrich, 2013 Knoxville Nationals Rookie of the year and a second generation Sprint car driver, tweeted: “A racing accident happened tonight. Frustrations were expressed in the wrong way & something horrible happened to 2 drivers. Ward should have stayed near the car. For anyone who doesn’t know Tony, he does great things for us “kids.” No driver hits another driver on purpose.”

Danny Dietrich, 2013 Knoxville Nationals Rookie of the year and a second generation Sprint car driver, tweeted: “A racing accident happened tonight. Frustrations were expressed in the wrong way & something horrible happened to 2 drivers. Ward should have stayed near the car. For anyone who doesn’t know Tony, he does great things for us “kids.” No driver hits another driver on purpose.”

Dietrich continued, “I can say when under caution & you spot debris at the last second, it takes an “effort” to miss it. For the racing world, think before typing.”

Headline Surfer® showcasing its own multi-media investigative series: WORST of the Worst, (Top 1,000) Motorsport Crashes 

Because Daytona International Speedway here in Daytona Bech, Fla., is home to NASCAR and one of the two greatest races in the world, the Daytona 500 (the other is the Indianapolis 500, featuring Indy-Cart series open wheel racing), Headline Surfer® started it's own multi-media series, "WORST of the Worst Motorsport crashes," with a countdown in its early stages of the top 1,000 crashes.

The series, which began June 29, relies on YouTube videos and other resources in highlighting crashes, their root causes and what safety measures resulted from the carnage. Here are links to what has been published so far, Nos. 1,000 to 996:

WORST of the Worst motorsport crashes compilation / Headline Surfer®

Recap: WORST of the Worst Motorsport crashes:

996. Broadcast color commentator on Paul Menard race car on fire: 'I can't believe the caution hasn't come out'
Phil Krueger crash 1984 Michigan / Headline Surfer®997. Phil Krueger survives crashes in Indy Cart races at Michigan in 1984 & '89
Posted Sat, 2014-08-09 02:33
 
Ex-Mercedes employee in raincoat grabbed by safety officials after running across roadway of German Grand Prix / Headline Surfer®998. Disgruntled ex-Mercedes employee in rain coat interrupts 2000 Formula One Grand Prix in Germany
Posted Sat, 2014-08-02 17:12
 
BMW M3 driver flips in crash on road course at the Nrburgring VLN race in 2012 in Germany / Headline Surfer®999. BMW flips after intense contact with another car in Nürburgring VLN endurance road race; driver unscathed
Posted Mon, 2014-06-30 03:33
 
Rusty Wallace / Headline Surfer®1,000. Rusty Wallace flips violently down backstretch in 1983 Twin 125 qualifier at Daytona
Posted Sun, 2014-06-29 21:49
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Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com for a decade now. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed dozens of journalism-industry awards in print anddigital platforms. Frederick is enrolled at Full Sail University in Winter Garden, FL, where he's three-fourths through the online Master of Arts program in New Media Journalism. His graduation is in August.