Watkins Glen, NY, United States (4E Sports) – Hours after hitting and killing an on-foot driver in a sprint car race, three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart announced that he will not join the Cheez-It 355 event at Watkins Glen International.
“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,” Stewart said.
“My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this tragedy,” he added.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and fellow competitors of Kevin Ward Jr. 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,” NASCAR said in a statement.
Greg Zipadelli, vice president of competition for Stewart-Haas Racing, picked Regan Smith to start in Stewart’s place.
“It’s an emotional time right now,” said Zipadelli, who met with Stewart hours after the incident.
“He 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,” he said.
Earlier, Zipadelli said Stewart would start today and ”we’re business as usual.”
During Saturday night’s sprint car race, Ward Jr. got out of his car to show his displeasure towards Stewart. However, Ward was struck by Stewart’s car, sending him sliding down the track.
Later, authorities spoke with Stewart and saw no evidence of criminal intent on the driver’s part.