Tony Stewart investigation: Probe in Kevin Ward Jr.’s death expected to last 2 weeks or more

08/12/2014 12:39 PM

08/13/2014 5:46 AM

The investigation into Saturday night’s incident in which a car driven by NASCAR star Tony Stewart hit and killed a sprint car driver standing on the track is expected to continue at least another two weeks.

Investigators continue to seek witnesses, gather evidence and reconstruct the crash that killed Kevin Ward Jr., 20, who had left his disabled car while the race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park was under caution.

“It would be inappropriate to discuss details or findings of the investigation with the media at this time,” Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said Tuesday.

Racing toward a turn on the half-mile dirt track on Saturday, Stewart’s car slid into Ward’s and pushed it into the wall. Ward’s car spun and hit the wall, and the race was placed under caution.

After the crash, Ward left his car, stepped quickly toward the infield and stood in the middle of the track, pointing in what appeared to be an accusatory way toward Stewart’s car coming toward him.

As Stewart approached Ward, his car appeared to speed up. Then the right side of Stewart’s car hit Ward, knocking him several yards down the track. Ward was pronounced dead on arrival at F.F. Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua.

Stewart did not race in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race in Watkins Glen, N.Y. He also pulled out of a scheduled race at an Indiana dirt track this coming Saturday night. A decision on Stewart’s status for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway has not been made.

Among the issues raised this week is whether the incident might bring new safety rules to racing. NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski said Tuesday it would be difficult to enforce any new rules limiting drivers’ ability to leave their cars after an accident such as last Saturday’s.

“Whether it’s racing or society, I’m not aware of any rule that works without the ability to enforce it,” Keselowski said during a conference call with media. “The only way to enforce it would be to have a penalty given afterward. And that wouldn’t work.

“My take on it right now is to let the dust settle and let cooler heads prevail. There is a lot of charged emotion on the topic right now. It’s a fresh, raw wound.”

Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion, said there are too many variables involved.

“You can’t put them all in one box; there isn’t a box,” he said. “Each one of them is different. Some experiences are you get the wind knocked out of you and you don’t want to get out right away. Others are when you’re done wrecking you’re so mad and frustrated and it’s hot in there. It’s a moment of anger and disappointment. I just don’t know if there’s a template to answer that. Every person and situation is different; you can never tell how anyone will react.”

Keselowski also said it is ultimately a team owner’s prerogative on whether Cup drivers should spend their spare time racing at local tracks. He said his owner, Roger Penske of Penske Racing, asks him not to race at local tracks.

“The reality of it is there are 350-some employees at Penske Racing,” Keselowski said. “Each one has a salary that is generated through revenues generated by sponsors and fans who are counting on me to drive the car. If something were to happen to me in those races, all of our sponsors have the right to go away and it threatens the job and the livelihoods of all those employees. That’s the balance we have to make and what we have to weigh out.”

Keselowski said the last time he raced at a local track was in Canada in 2013, and that was to benefit his charitable foundation.

NASCAR president Mike Helton is expected to talk with the media on Friday at the Michigan track.

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