What exactly happened?
Some facts are undisputed.
Kevin Ward Jr., 20, and NASCAR star Tony Stewart were both competing in a sprint dirt-track race on Saturday night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York.
During the race, Ward’s car was involved in a wreck. It’s pretty clear by amateur videos that Ward felt Stewart was at fault for the wreck.
Ward left his wrecked car, walked onto the roadway, lifted his right arm and pointed at Stewart.
Less than a minute later, Ward fell after being hit by Stewart’s car or, more specifically, according to some reports, Stewart’s right tire.
Ward was rushed to the emergency room and died of massive blunt trauma to the head.
Stewart, 43, pulled out of Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at world- famous Watkins Glen International.
Stewart released a statement: “There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward, Jr. It’s a very emotional time for all involved, and it is the reason I’ve decided not to participate in today’s race at Watkins Glen. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and everyone affected by this tragedy.”
Stewart is a three-time Sprint Cup champion.
During a news conference Monday, Ontario County Sheriff Phillip Povero said the investigation into the fatal crash remains open. No criminal charges have been filed.
“No facts exist that support criminal behavior or conduct,” Povero said.
However, investigators continue to request any video taken during the race be submitted to them. Povero said investigators are being “extremely thorough.”
And those, essentially, are the facts surrounding this tragic event.
But some questions remain. Among those: Who was at fault?
Some area racing enthusiasts say Ward was at fault.
“It’s definitely a tragedy,” said David Goode, owner of Waco’s Heart ‘O Texas Speedway. “But this is a good example of why guys don’t need to get out of a wrecked car.
“The right rear tire on a sprint car is close to 2-feet wide. The boy just got too close to Stewart’s car and that right tire caught him — with 800 horsepower in Stewart’s car. No doubt, the boy was at fault.”
Goode purchased Heart ‘O Texas Speedway from Gene Adamcik, of Waco, in 2013.
“It was an unfortunate accident,” Adamcik said. “But you just don’t get out of your race car. It’s a bad deal for all involved. But it is Ward’s fault, not Tony Stewart’s. It was Ward’s fault for getting out of his car and doing what he did. I don’t think Tony Stewart would run over anyone intentionally.”
Joe Lombardi, sports information director for Copperas Cove High School, was a race track announcer for 15 years.
“A lot of those smaller tracks don’t have the best lighting in the world,” Lombardi said. “What caused it? I don’t know. But when you’re in a race car, you don’t get out of it until the race is over.
“We all feel sad for the young man and his family. It’s sad for everyone. Obviously, he was mad. Apparently he felt Tony Stewart did something that put him out of the race. So he got out of his car and let his feelings be known.
“What happened then? I don’t know. But it was dark and darkness would be a factor. Police have said they see nothing that points toward criminal intent.”
Contact Allan Mandell at email@example.com or 254-501-7566 and read his column at KDHPressbox.com