HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — There future is uncertain for NASCAR driver Tony Stewart after he hit and killed another driver who was walking on a track during a dirt-track race in upstate New York, authorities said early Sunday.
Kevin Ward Jr., 20, died from injuries suffered in the incident, which occurred Saturday night at the Empire Super Sprints series event at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park.
Roy Hendrick grew up on the track with his father, Ray, whose winning racing career is showcased throughout the family’s Chesterfield auto shop.
“I’ve been racing all my life seen my father race all his life. I’ve seen fights but nobody wants to hurt anybody,” Roy Hendrick, said.
That includes Tony Stewart, Hendrick said. “Tony will keep in it but he’s gonna have a heavy heart for a long time.”
Hendrick, like the rest of the country, watched in horror as Stewart struck and killed fellow Sprint race competitor Kevin Ward Jr in upstate New York Saturday.
Ward upset about a lap he spun out on so he got out of his car to confront Stewart.
“I’ve done it myself and it’s foolish,” said Hendrick, who explained that drivers can get caught up in the heat of the moment.
“It’s really dangerous for these guys or any drivers to get out of their car before all the cars have stopped . Tony evidentially didn’t see him cause there is no way in the world somebody would run over somebody on purpose,” Hendrick said.
“The stuff that happens in our sport there’s no way to mimic it for you at home so the factors that went into this are too many to name and it’s just terrible no matter what way you look at it.” racecar driver Brendan Gaughn said.
And now the racing community from the dirt track to NASCAR will be looking at ways to learn from this tragedy.
“Every time something like this happens in our sport we learn from it and we become a better sport for it so safety is our number one priority,” Richmond International Raceway President Dennis Bickmeier said.
Richmond International Raceway hosts the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sept. 5. There has been no word yet if the number 14 car will be driven by Tony Stewart.