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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Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.
The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.
Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.
Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.
“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”
Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”
Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.
The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.