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Ward family files wrongful death lawsuit against Tony Stewart

Tony Stewart climbs into his car before practice for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International, on Friday. A wrongful-death lawsuit has been filed in the death of Kevin Ward, a sprint car driver who was killed in a 2014 incident in upstate New York.
Tony Stewart climbs into his car before practice for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International, on Friday. A wrongful-death lawsuit has been filed in the death of Kevin Ward, a sprint car driver who was killed in a 2014 incident in upstate New York. AP

A law firm representing the parents of Kevin Ward filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Sprint Cup owner-driver Tony Stewart on Friday in an upstate New York courthouse.

The suit, filed by New York City-based Lanier Law Firm, asks for unspecified damages. The suit alleges Stewart “climbed up (the track), gunned his engine, causing the 700-horsepower vehicle to slide and strike Ward with the right-rear tire.”

Ward was killed in the Aug. 9, 2014, incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, during a 12-mile sprint car race in which Ward and Stewart both drove. Ward’s car made contact with an outer wall. He exited the vehicle and was standing on the track with the race under caution when he was struck.

Stewart has maintained his car hitting Ward was an accident and that he had no intention to harm Ward. He was not criminally charged.

Stewart spokesperson Mike Arning said the race team had no immediate comment on this lawsuit.

Stewart was asked Wednesday about the one-year anniversary of the accident during a media availability at Texas Motor Speedway.

“I don’t think how anybody could be exactly back to where they were,” after being involved in a fatal accident, Stewart said then. “That doesn’t mean I’ve become better, but there are always positives that come from any scenario.”

The lawsuit says Ward suffered “blunt-force trauma to the chest resulting in a transcended aorta, a transected vertical spinal cord, crushed ribs and a hemothorax.”

The suit said other drivers demonstrated more caution under the yellow flag than Stewart did and said Stewart has a history of “temper and outbursts both on and off the track.”

Stewart is competing in Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International.

Stewart, 44, has struggled the past three seasons. Two years ago he broke two bones in his lower right leg while driving a sprint car, causing him to miss 15 NASCAR points races.

He missed three more races after last year’s incident with Ward.

This season he has no top-five finishes in 21 Sprint Cup races. In danger of again missing the Chase, he approaches a Watkins Glen International road course where he has won five times since 2002.

His ninth-place finish at Pocono on Sunday was just his second top-10 this season.

Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell

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