(WXXI News & AP) The investigation continues into a fatal accident involving a race car driver from the North Country who was killed in an on-track incident in Canandaigua over the weekend with NASCAR star Tony Stewart.
Stewart pulled out of Sunday's race at Watkins Glen after the incident at a dirt track on Saturday night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. During that race, a 20 year old driver from Port Leyden, Kevin Ward Jr., had crashed after bumping cars with Stewart a lap earlier.
Ward walked from his crashed car onto the racing surface while cars were still circling, under the caution flag, which means they were traveling about 30 to 35 miles an hour. As Ward gestured at Stewart, Stewart's car struck Ward and he was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
Ontario County Sheriff Phil Povero says Stewart has been cooperative during the investigation, and while that probe is still going on, Povero says right now there are no charges being filed against Stewart.
“There is no evidence in hand or no facts that would support a criminal charge or support criminal intent on the part of anybody.”
Povero does say the track was muddy during the race, and deputies are looking to talk to a dirt track racing expert to help their investigation. While there is at least one video circulating of the incident, authorities are reaching out to the public for any other videos that may be out there that could help reconstruct what happened.
Stewart issued this statement:
“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.”
Kevin Ward Jr.'s family says it "appreciates all the prayer and support" but that members "would like time to grieve."
Ward began racing go-karts in 1998 at age 4, but didn't start driving sprint cars until 2010. The 20-year-old was Empire Super Sprint rookie of the year in 2012 and this year was his fifth season racing the Empire Super Sprints.
AJ Allmendinger beat Marcos Ambrose on a two-lap dash to the finish to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International on a somber Sunday.
The victory made his one-car team for JTG Daugherty Racing eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup title. Allmendinger held off Ambrose through the first two turns and opened a lead after both cars bumped and won going away.
Allmendinger offered his condolences to the Ward family after he won, saying "we're a community here, we're thinking about you."
Regan Smith drove Stewart's car instead and finished 35th after having to start from the back of the 43-car field and getting caught in a late accident.
It was the second straight time Stewart missed the race at The Glen, where he has a NASCAR-record five victories. He suffered a broken leg in a sprint car accident in Iowa days before the Cup race and missed the rest of the season.