The sheriff investigating a fatal crash that saw three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart’s sprint car strike and kill a driver during a race Saturday night in New York said Monday "all options remain open" with regards to the case and possible criminal action.
Appearing on CNN Monday morning, Sheriff Philip C. Povero of Ontario County, New York, said, "This is an ongoing investigation, and all options remain available. We’re continuing to gather and analyze every piece of evidence we can."
Stewart’s car struck and killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. during a sprint car race Saturday night at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park.
During that race, the two crashed, and under caution Ward got out of his car and walked towards Stewart’s car, gesturing at the three-time NASCAR champion. As Stewart’s car approached Ward, Stewart appeared to gun his throttle and his car fishtailed to the right. Stewart’s right-rear wheel hit Ward, who was thrown into the air and died as a result of the contact.
Stewart initially planned to race in Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at the Glen, but then withdrew, with Regan Smith subbing for him behind the wheel of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Smith finished 37th in the race.
Sunday afternoon, Stewart issued the following 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."
Stewart has also withdrawn from the Aug. 16 Bob Newton Classic sprint car race at Plymouth (Indiana) Speedway.
Ward’s funeral service will take place at the Trainor Funeral Home, 143 Schuyler Street, Boonville, NY. Visitation is scheduled for Wednesday from 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. ET, with the funeral Thursday at 11 a.m.
Ward began racing at the age of 4 and competed in the Empire Super Sprints Series, which is based in upstate New York.
Chuck Miller, the race director for the Empire Super Sprints, said Ward impressed his competitors early on.
"He was very talented," said Miller. "When he came here, you could see the raw talent he had right away."
Miller said Ward was a hard charger from the beginning.
"He was a good kid, coming in as a 16-year-old," said Miller. "He was fearless, he was fun to watch. He would run hard and run fast. … Everybody knew he was the future of our sport and our organization."