A fellow driver who was just a few cars behind Tony Stewart on Saturday night at Canandaigua (New York) Motorsports Park said the Columbus native did all he could to avoid hitting Kevin Ward Jr.
Cory Sparks, a friend of Ward, was trailing Stewart on a caution lap after Ward spun out and into the outside wall. Video shows Ward getting out of his sprint car and approaching Stewart’s car, which then hit and killed Ward.
“I saw Tony swerve down toward the inside of the race track,” Sparks said. “I turned down the race track, also. Tony’s car made an abrupt left turn down the race track, and after he turned, I saw that he had struck Kevin.
“In my opinion, (Stewart) did everything he could to avoid him, from the view that I saw,” he said. “The view out of sprint cars is very limited to begin with, and it’s possible he didn’t see Kevin until the very last second.”
Sparks, 27, has been racing for 19 years and has crossed paths with Stewart on a few occasions. Sparks had been racing against Ward in Empire Super Sprints since around 2009.
“The entire Ward family is great to be around,” Sparks said. “Kevin was a great racer. Tempers flare in racing, and to wish harm on someone, I don’t believe (Stewart) would do that.
“Kevin and I had our own track incidents, and it made us closer after the fact,” he said. “It’s a very emotional sport, but no driver wishes harm on another driver.”
Sparks has taken issue with people who have taken to social media bashing Stewart or Ward for their roles in the accident.
“The part that people should be concerned about is the Ward family and letting a family grieve,” Sparks said. “It was a tragic accident and mistake. It’s not fair for the Ward family to have to hear or for the Stewart family to have to hear all of the gossip of people and all the people calling in the radio stations pointing fingers.”
Sparks said the video shows the accident, but it doesn’t show how much Stewart’s car actually turned down across the race track to try and avoid Ward.
“I’m never going to forget what I saw, and now I’m being harassed and under pressure,” Sparks said. “I spoke up because people don’t have a clue of what they’re talking about. The only reason I’m doing these interviews is because I want actual facts to be out there — not people speculating.
“I’ve seen comments of people calling me a liar,” he said. “I get nothing out of this. I want nothing out of this, except for people to understand to leave the families and Tony alone. It was a tragic mistake and accident. Both the Ward family, Tony Stewart, me, any family that happened to deal with it has to deal with it the rest of their life.”