Newly approved Formula 1 entrant Gene Haas, of Stewart-Haas racing, is facing a difficult weekend due to his partner, NASCAR veteran Tony Stewart, being involved in the death of a 20-year-old driver in a sprint car race in New York on Saturday night.
According to reports:
Kevin Ward Jr, in the No. 13 car, hit the wall out of turn 2 after contact with Stewart’s No. 14 car. A video taken by a fan and posted on YouTube shows Ward climb from his car and deliberately walk back into the racing line apparently in an attempt to confront Stewart as he passed by while the track was under caution.
The video showed Ward on the right side of Stewart’s car. As Stewart approached Ward, the rear of the No. 14 car seemed to kick out and hit Ward sending him through the air and landing motionless where emergency crews quickly attended to him.
Stewart released a statement announcing he would not participate in Sunday’s NASCAR race saying:
“There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr. It’s a very emotional time for all involved, and it is the reason I’ve decided not to participate in today’s race at Watkins Glen. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this tragedy,”
Greg Zipadelli, the competition director for Stewart-Haas racing, says that he supports Stewart’s decision not to race in Sunday’s NASCAR event at Watkins Glen:
“[Stewart] feels strongly this is the right thing to do. We at SHR support it and agree with it. It’s a difficult time for both parties. This is what we feel is right and we’re supporting Tony in it,” Zipadelli said.
The activity on social media ranges from accusations of deliberate intent to shock and most of all, real sadness for the Ward family with NASCAR drivers tweeting messages of condolences, well wishes and prayers for the friends an family of Kevin Ward Jr. Some have tweeted their support for Stewart under such dire circumstances.
According to Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero, there are no criminal charges being sought at this time:
“He was visibly shaken by this accident,” Povero said. “… This is right now being investigated as an on-track crash and I don’t want to infer that there are criminal charges pending. When the investigation is completed, we will sit down with the district attorney and review it. But I want to make it very clear: there are no criminal charges pending at this time.”
Stewart-Haas Racing would do well to avoid all of the social media accusations while focusing on the Ward family as well as the investigation and law enforcement professionals working on the incident.