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Stewart out at Michigan


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Tony Stewart will not compete in a NASCAR Sprint Cup series race Sunday at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

Veteran driver Jeff Burton, who has won 21 Sprint Cup races, will drive the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing in place Stewart.

Stewart, a Columbus native, has been in seclusion after being involved in an on-track racing incident Saturday at the Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park in which 20-year-old sprint-car driver Kevin Ward Jr. was killed.

 

Stewart spokesman Mike Arning announced about 5:45 p.m. Thursday, the same day Ward was buried in his hometown of Port Leyden, New York, that Stewart would not race at Michigan.

Using a substitute driver at Michigan complicates Stewart’s chances to qualify for NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. Stewart has not won a race this season and slipped to 21st in the rankings going into the race at Michigan.

Only 16 drivers make the Chase, although NASCAR could make an exception.

Stewart was racing a sprint car in a 25-lap race at the dirt track about 10:30 p.m. Saturday, competing against 22 other drivers.

The Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff’s office continues to investigate what happened after Stewart made contact with Ward’s car as the two jockeyed for position in Turn 2 of the dirt track on Lap 14.

A video of the incident shows Ward’s No. 13 spinning off into the wall and a caution is called. The video shows Ward getting out of his car and walking to the center of the race track, gesturing toward approaching drivers, including Stewart.

As the cars approach Ward, one car swerves to avoid him. Stewart, who was behind that car, strikes Ward with a right rear tire as Ward stood to the right of Stewart’s moving sprint car. The video shows the rear wheel of Stewart’s cart appearing to kick out and hit Ward.

Ward was pronounced dead from massive blunt trauma at a nearby hospital, according to Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero.

The funeral for the 2012 South Lewis graduate was at the high school, where mourners remembered him as a small-town racer who was obsessed with cars and one day hoped to race in the sprint World of Outlaws series.

Povero has said the investigation into Ward’s death could last two weeks or longer. No criminal charges have been filed, and Povero’s last statement was that investigators don’t have any facts that would support probable cause of any criminal behavior by the 43-year-old Stewart.

Arning has not revealed where Stewart is but did say he is staying “with friends.”

The driver change applies only to Michigan, according to Arning. Stewart’s plans for upcoming Sprint Cup races have not been determined, he said.

Nationwide Series’ Regan Smith drove Stewart’s car at Watkins Glen on Sunday to a 37th-place finish.

Stewart also has opted out of a sprint car race Saturday at Plymouth (Ind.) Speedway.

Burton will talk to the media at 10 a.m. today at the Michigan Speedway infield media center along with Stewart-Haas Racing Executive Vice President Brett Frood and Greg Zipadelli, Stewart-Haas Racing’s president of competition.

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