(WXXI News and AP) — NASCAR driver Tony Stewart will not drive at Watkins Glen on Sunday following a fatal crash at a Canandaigua racetrack on Saturday night.
A spokesman for Tony Stewart calls the death of a fellow driver he struck and killed at the Canandaigua Motorsports dirt track a "tragic accident."
Greg Zipadelli, competition director for Stewart-Haas Racing, said the three-time NASCAR champion "feels strongly" he should not race at Watkins Glen following Kevin Ward Jr.'s fatal accident.
Regan Smith will replace Stewart in the car.
``Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends,'' a team spokesman said in a statement. ``We're still attempting to sort through all the details.''
The three-time NASCAR champion hit Kevin Ward Jr. on Saturday night as Ward walked toward Stewart's car following an on-track incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park.
Ontario County deputies say that at about 10:30p.m. on Saturday, on lap 14 of a 25 lap race, one car lost control and spun, coming to rest along the outside retaining wall.
The race was immediately put into "caution" which slows the speed of the cars. The driver of the car that spun, now identified as 20 year old Kevin Ward Jr. of Port Leyden, NY, left his car and walked down the track.
Two race cars, one of them driven by Tony Stewart, approached as Ward continued walking along the track, gesturing to the two cars. The first car swerved to avoid Ward. The second car, driven by Tony Stewart, struck Ward. Ward was taken to Thompson Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Deputies say Stewart is cooperating with the investigation. Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said his department's investigation is not criminal and that Stewart was ``fully cooperative'' and appeared ``very upset'' over what had happened.
``He was visibly shaken by this accident,'' Povero said.
Povero has asked anyone who has amateur video of the incident to contact the sheriff's department at 585-394-4560 so that they can review it.
Stewart often races at smaller dirt tracks around the country, even while he is involved in the regular NASCAR season.
The dirt track, about 30 miles southeast of Rochester, canceled the remainder of the race and later posted a message on its Facebook page encouraging fans to ``pray for the entire racing community of fans, drivers, and families.'' It said a statement on the crash would come later Sunday. NASCAR released this statement: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and fellow competitors of Kevin Ward Jr.," NASCAR said in a statement Sunday. "We support Tony Stewart's decision to miss today's race and we will continue to respect the process and timeline of the local authorities and will continue to monitor this situation moving forward."