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Driver killed in on-track incident with Tony Stewart at N.Y. dirt track

By Jim Utter
jutter@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/10/13/06/vNuKf.Em.138.jpg|316
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    In this screenshot from a spectator video, Kevin Ward Jr. walks on the track at Canandaigua Motorsports Park to confront driver Tony Stewart. Seconds later he was struck and killed.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/08/10/09/14/1dlm5g.Em.138.jpg|316
    Logan Messerly - AP
    This image provided by Logan Messerly shows ambulances on the scene at Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Saturday Aug. 9, 2014 in Canandaigua, N.Y. Authorities are investigating a serious crash that injured one person at a New York dirt track where Tony Stewart was racing on the eve of a NASCAR race. (AP Photo/Logan Messerly)

The Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff's Department confirmed early Sunday morning that a sprint car driven by NASCAR driver Tony Stewart struck and killed another driver who was standing on the track while a race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park was under caution.

Sheriff Philip Povero confirmed during an early-morning news conference that the driver struck on the track was pronounced dead on arrival at F.F. Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua. The driver was identified by track officials as 20-year old Kevin Ward Jr. of Port Leyden, N.Y.

Povero said authorities questioned Stewart at the scene and said he was cooperative and "very upset" about the incident. The Ontario County district attorney's office has been notified of the incident and will continue the investigation, Povero said.

The are no charges currently pending against Stewart, who returned to his motorhome at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, site of Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at the Glen.

Sources close to Stewart said as of now, Stewart planned to compete in Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race.

Video of the incident shows Stewart's car striking Ward's while racing in a turn. Ward's car then spun and bounced off the wall, placing the race under caution. Ward quickly exited his car and is shown walking down the track while pointing toward Stewart as he comes back around the track. The right side of Stewart's car strikes Ward, dragging him briefly under the car and then leaves him lying prone on the track.

According to the track, all racing activities were halted for the night following the incident and fans were asked to return home.

Around 1 a.m. ET, the track posted the following statement on its Facebook page:

"Canandaigua Motorsports Park will not have an official statement on the accident that happened in the ESS race until tomorrow. Please pray for the entire racing community of fans, drivers and families." Canandaigua Motorsports Park is a half-mile dirt track southeast of Rochester, N.Y., and about 50 miles northwest of Watkins Glen International. In recent weeks, Stewart has returned to dirt track racing after a breaking two bones in his right leg in a wreck at a dirt track in Iowa last summer.

There was no immediate response to a request for comment from Stewart's NASCAR public relations representative or from NASCAR officials.

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