Tony Stewart to Return to NASCAR This Weekend
Stewart opted out of three races after his car hit Kevin Ward Jr., who was walking on the track during an Empire Super Sprints series race August 9 in New York.
“NASCAR has remained in constant contact with his race team, and we will stay very close to this situation as Stewart returns to competition,” said NASACR Executive Vice President Steve O’Donnell.
The race in Atlanta is scheduled for Sunday, with first practice and qualifying set for Friday.
New York authorities continue to investigate the Ward incident, according to media reports.
Spectator video from that night at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park race shows two cars coming out of a turn, with Stewart’s No. 14 car sliding up the track toward Ward’s No. 13 car. The two cars get close and appear to make contact before Ward’s car hits the wall and spins out.
Ward gets out of his crashed car and walks determinedly on the track toward the race cars, which had slowed for a yellow flag. Ward points a finger and appears to be yelling. One car swerves to avoid Ward on the half-mile dirt track.
Stewart’s car passes close to Ward, and it appears that its right rear tire hits him.
Stewart withdrew from the NASCAR race in Watkins Glen the next day. He also missed races in Michigan and Tennessee.
Authorities announced two days later that 20-year-old Ward, a New York sprint car driver, had died of “massive blunt trauma.”
Ontario County Sheriff Philip C. Povero said at the time that there was no evidence that a crime had been committed.
Stewart has only released a statement shortly after Ward’s death.
“There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.,” Stewart said August 10. “It’s a very emotional time for all involved. … My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this tragedy.”
Ward, from Port Leyden, New York, was in his fifth season in the Empire Super Sprints series. He began racing when he was 4, running go-kart events. When he was 12, he moved to the faster sprint cars.
His father blames Stewart for hitting his son.
“Apparently, Tony Stewart was the only one driving out there who didn’t see him,” the father said, according to Syracuse.com.
Ward Sr. said the race was the only time he had ever seen his son get out of the car while it was still on the track.
NASCAR has instituted a rule that requires its drivers to stay in the car until safety personnel arrive.
By Steve Almasy
CNN’s Wayne Sterling contributed to this report.