On Sunday morning Stewart-Haas Racing Vice President of Competition Greg Zipadelli announced that Tony Stewart would not compete in the Cheez-It 355 Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International as previously planned. Instead, Nationwide Series driver Regan Smith will drive the No. 14 normally driven by Stewart.
“It’s an emotional time right now,” Zipadelli said.
Stewart was involved in a sprint car incident at at Canadaigua Motorsports Park, less than a two-hour drive from Watkins Glen, on Ssaturday night, that claimed the life of 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr.
“A tragic accident took place last night during a sprint car race in which Tony Stewart was participating,” public relations representative Mike Arning said. “Tony was unhurt, but a fellow-competitor lost his life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”
Ward’s car hit the wall after an incident between he and Stewart on lap 14 of the 25-lap race. Afterward, Ward got out of his car as other cars, including Stewart’s, drove by at about 40 mph under caution.
A frustrated Ward yelled and pointed as Stewart as Stewart drove by. Stewart swerved to miss Ward, but the right-rear tire of his car hit ward and threw him about 30 feet. Ward died in an ambulance on the way to a local hospital.
“Stewart has fully cooperated (with the ongoing investigation),” Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff Philip C. Povero said. “He acknowledges the collision with the driver.”