Sheriff: Driver hit by Tony Stewart in sprint car race has died

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The Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff’s Department has confirmed the death of a sprint car driver that was hit by three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart in an incident Saturday night at the Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park.

During a race at the half-mile dirt track, Stewart caused 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. to spin out. That caused Ward to get out of his car to confront Stewart, but he was then struck by Stewart’s car.

Early Sunday morning, Sheriff Philip Povero confirmed that the driver was pronounced dead on arrival after being taken to a local hospital.

Povero also added that Stewart has been “fully cooperative” with the ongoing investigation.

“He is very upset and has confirmed his continuing cooperation,” the Sheriff said according to RochesterHomepage.net.

The district attorney’s office has been notified and as of now, no criminal charges have been filed.

Stewart is thought to have returned to Watkins Glen International. Jim Utter of the Charlotte Observer has relayed word from sources that say Stewart still plans to compete in Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at the Glen.

A video of the incident was briefly posted on YouTube before it was removed, and started with Stewart and Ward going side by side through Turn 2. There, Ward was squeezed on the high side and then spun, his car sustaining a flat tire in the process.

Seconds later, Ward exited his car, pointed a finger toward Stewart’s oncoming car, and then walked farther down the track toward him. Stewart’s car then clipped Ward, who was thrown back 50 feet according to the Associated Press.

A full summary of the incident has been released by the Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff’s Office. It reads:

On Saturday, August 9, 2014, at or about 10:30 p.m., there was an on-track incident at the Exit of Turn 2 at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park, during the Lucas Oil SuperSprint Feature race. The race was in Lap 14 of a 25-lap race, when one car lost control and spun coming to rest along the outside retaining wall. The race was immediately put into caution, slowing the cars on the track. The driver of the car that spun exited the race car and walked down the track onto the racing surface. Two racecars traveling in tandem approached as the driver continued down the track, gesturing to the two approaching cars. The first car swerved to avoid the driver out on the track. The second car, operated by Tony Stewart, struck the driver. The driver was treated by on-track medical staff and was transported to F.F. Thompson Hospital where he was pronounced deceased at 11:15 p.m. At this point, Mr. Stewart has cooperated with the investigation, which is ongoing. The Sheriff’s Office has asked the individuals who possess amateur video, to please make contact with this office so that copies of the video accounts can be obtained for review. Please contact the Sheriff’s Office at 585-394-4560.

Stewart’s camp has also released their own statement:

“A tragic accident took place last night during a sprint car race in which Tony Stewart was participating. Tony was unhurt, but a fellow competitor lost his life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. We’re still attempting to sort through all the details and we appreciate your understanding during this difficult time.”

Canandaigua Motorsports Park cancelled the rest of its racing on Saturday after the incident took place. It later said on its Facebook page that it would not have a statement ready until Sunday.

Per his bio on his official web site, Ward was in his fifth season with the Empire Super Sprints series. He claimed the series’ rookie of the year award in 2012.

Stewart has recently returned to sprint car racing after sustaining a broken leg in a crash last August at the Southern Iowa Speedway.  In the previous month of July 2013, Stewart set off a 15-car incident at the same Canandaigua track that sent at least one driver to the hospital.

Our thoughts are with all involved at this time…

Hunter McElrea wins Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Scholarship

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Hunter McElrea bested 18 competitors to win the third annual Road to Indy USF2000 $200,000 Scholarship Shootout on Sunday at Bondurant Racing School in Chandler, Ariz.

The two-day contest featured on-track competition in Formula Mazda cars as well as interview sessions and assessment from a panel of judges.

“I can’t believe it,” McElrea said at IndyCar.com. “This is definitely the most exciting opportunity that I have had in my racing career. I cannot thank Mazda and everyone enough for making this possible for me. The fact that I am going to be on the grid next year thanks to them is a dream come true.

“They have given me the opportunity to prove myself in such a high level that I never even thought I would be able to reach. I have to thank Andersen Promotions, Cooper tires, all of the judges, everyone from Mazda, the Bondurant Racing School and the other competitors, who literally pushed me to the limit.

“I am just so happy. It is still sinking in, but I just can’t wait to get next year started, and I’ll be representing Mazda in that nice Soul Red USF2000 car.”

MORE: Michael Carter wins Mazda Road to 24 shootout

The 19-year-old McElrea was born in California, but reared in Australia.

As a result of winning the award, McElrea will compete in the 2019 season of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder.

McElrea won the Australian Formula Ford Championship this year on the strength of 13 victories in 21 races.

Early competition resulted in a final field of six drivers that included Jake Craig, Michael Eastwell, Braden Eves, Flinn Lazier and Ross Martin. They competed in a qualification session and 30-minute simulated race. McElrea won that race.

“Today was an incredible day,” said Tom Long, Mazda Motorsports factory driver and one of the judges. “There was so much talent here for the shootout. Hunter McElrea just rose to the top when it was time to shine, but our decision was very, very difficult.

“In the end, given all of the circumstances, we were able to make a pretty good decision and we are really, really proud of not only Hunter but our whole team here with Mazda to be able to grant this $200,000 scholarship for his opportunity in USF2000 next year.”