Driver who witnessed tragedy: Tony Stewart ‘did everything in his power … to avoid (Kevin Ward Jr.)’

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Lost in all the resulting fallout of the Tony Stewart – Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy is a report by a fellow driver who was also in Saturday night’s fateful race field and witnessed the incident.

“From what I saw, Tony did everything in his power to turn down away from Kevin to avoid him,” sprint car driver Cory Sparks told Rochester.twc.news.com.

Sparks was a few cars behind Stewart on the racetrack but had a clear field of vision of what occurred, and said that videos that have been made public do not tell the whole story.

“People say that they heard the engine rev up and he gassed it,” Sparks said of Stewart. “In a sprint car, the only way to steer is you steer with the rear wheels as much as you do the steering wheel. In my opinion, what he did was he (Stewart) gassed it to turn down away from him (Ward).”

[ MORE: Kevin Ward’s father speaks out, questions Tony Stewart ]

Sparks also confirmed the belief of many that Stewart’s vision may have been limited and that Stewart likely did not see Ward until it was too late.

“Kevin was wearing all-black,” Sparks said. “A black fire suit, a black helmet, which in normal situations isn’t a big deal, they are to go with the colors of your car. It was tragic accident and a mistake was made.”

Although Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff Philip Povero has said his investigators have spoken to other racers, it was unclear from the Rochester.twcnews.com story if Sparks has been questioned yet by investigators about what he saw unfold on the racetrack.

[ MORE: Dan Patrick on Tony Stewart: “I want to know that this bothers him” (VIDEO) ]

“I think that the biggest thing is to remember Kevin Ward as a great race car driver, not a victim of Tony Stewart,” Sparks said.

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Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.

Results are below. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama rolls off at 3:00 p.m. ET.