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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.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • rapierman

    I tracked this story from the beginning. While the video showed something that might have been incriminating, I held off on saying anything accusatory and just waited for the county sheriff’s press conference. Once I found out, I told everyone on Twitter that no charges were pending and called it official. My condolences to the Ward family on this tragic loss.

    There is some discussion on whether or not drivers of different levels of racing in NASCAR should never mix in a race. This is probably going to add fuel to that fire.

  • without suggesting for a moment that kevin ward deserved to die, that is the most outrageously irresponsible behaviour i’ve witnessed by an angry racer in a long time. what a stupid reason to get yourself killed. i hope this racing series will educate all of its drivers (young and old) about the need put safety first at all times, but PARTICULARLY when you are angry, or otherwise emotional.

    my condolences to all those involved.

  • Andreas

    I too followed the story from when it first popped up on the news. Such a sad turn of events, and I hope the speculations and accusations will slow down and sounder minds prevail, just as they did within Stewart-Haas Racing (the initial reaction from Zipadelli was that Stewart was going to race at Watkins Glen the day after, and that it was “business as usual” within the team). Naturally, stepping aside for the time being was the right thing to do, and I don’t see how anyone would have thought he’d be fit to drive the day after

    From the video I’ve seen, it’s clear that leaving your car and stepping into traffic – full course yellow or not – is to be avoided at all times. It is also clear that someone (the video was focused elsewhere at the time, but it could possibly be Stewart, due to the speed he carried when he got back in frame) blipped the throttle quite hard. It has been speculated that it was an attempt to intimidate Kevin Ward by spraying him with dirt (apparently not unheard of in short/dirt track racing). Until the investigation has had its course, I wouldn’t want to call it either way – except to call it the terrible tragedy it is. It was a sad day for motorsport in general, Tony Stewart in particular and most of all for Kevin Ward’s family.

    My condolences to all involved and touched by this tragedy. :-(

  • Tim C

    I agree with what’s already been said. But it cannot be said enough, drivers should stay with their cars until track workers and safety officials arrive. I hope we never see an incident like this happen again. Condolences to all involved.

  • Pm

    Wow I guess this shows why the fia will fine drivers for hitching a ride with another driver on top of an f1 car. A live race track is no place to mess about

  • Unfortunately, Tony’s previous temper tantrums in NASCAR are not going to help him out in the court of public opinion here…..

  • Tony may be a lot of things but a deliberate killer isn’t one of them. I’ve been to low-lit tracks like this and I doubt Tony was expecting the guy to be standing in front of his car when he came around. tragic for all involved.

  • Glen

    I watched the video over and over. After the crash, cars went low and slow.
    But not Tony. He went high and gunned it. Two hot heads. If this was a road rage incident on highway? But, it was a race with rules and a code of conduct.

    • N18

      I agree with Glen, if this makes any sense, the young driver was trying to get in Tony’s face, and Tony was most likely doing the SAME thing but he forgot he was in a car. Everyone agrees about getting out of his car, but don’t give me this shit about “These cars can only turn with you hammer the gas etc. As said before, all cars were low and slow, not Tony. He deserves a % of the cause of this death. My 2 cents.

  • Rik

    The safest place on the race track of any race is in the actual race car. This kid got out and unfortunately for him got ran over, nearly twice.

    The race series, who need the drama for the fan base, should have banned drivers from doing this years past but until now no one has been stupid or unlucky enough to get killed walking out in the racing line until now. Be it the fact that it was dark, be it that Ward was wearing a black outfit, or being the fact that there is very poor visibility out of these race cars, had Ward stay’d in his car he would still be alive to bitch about Stewart.

  • F1derbar

    Tony definitely goosed it but looks like he tried at the last second to swerve but there are no clutches on those cars and the wheels keep turning until they lose enough torque to make the brakes effective, Ward didn’t stand a chance but it his his fault ultimately. I understand short track and NASCAR drivers step onto track occasionally and gesture/threaten one another. I’m thinking maybe this will put a stop to that.

  • rapierman

    Latest police reports indicate that there is no evidence of any criminal intent. However, the county DA still has the option to charge Stewart with either Manslaughter 2 or Criminally Negligent Homicide.

    • Rik

      Reports are that Ward died if blunt force trauma. Video’s are popping up zooming in and it shows that Ward was stuck by the wing as it appears his arm is holding onto the wing and he appears to get caught in the wheel.

  • Glen

    Tony better lawyer up.

    Ward’s father is talking and angry. If the Sheriff and DA want some fame, they will prosecute.
    Tony could be hit with a criminal case and a civil lawsuit. 1 or both.