A race turned deadly at a Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York over the weekend. A 20-year old driver was killed after getting out of his car during a race.
Tonight, how the incident has affected the entire racing community.
Locals say it's why safety and a cool head can mean the difference between life and death.
Ken Squire is co-owner of Thunder Road International SpeedBowl in Barre, VT. He also knows what can happen when emotions get the best of you on the racetrack.
“We can make a real effort in legislating to make the races safer but it does not take care of when the human mind makes a human error,” said Ken Squire. “If someone is totally focused on something then it goes awry, it's pretty hard to get common sense to play a role. That was the case at Canandaigua."
Canandaigua Motorsports Park was where sports met tragedy Saturday night.
20-year old Kevin Ward Jr. was a regular at Canandaigua. On Saturday, during a race there, he was killed after being hit by NASCAR Champion Tony Stewart.
Ward had spiraled off the track, got out of his car and ran into the middle of the track, appearing frustrated. That’s when Stewart hit him.
Ward was pronounced dead at the hospital. Ken Squire has known Tony Stewart for years.
“He certainly would have never, with intent, gun anyone with a car,” said Squire. “This is a big lesson. It's a big lesson in why one does not want to lose control."
When tragedy was unfolding in central New York, almost 300 miles away a race was underway at Airborne Park Speedway in Plattsburgh. Tony Stewart himself has raced there.
Employee Tom Sibalski says there have been close calls on this track.
“You got high speeds. You got people with attitudes, a lot of ego,” said Sibalski. “But still, it's very important that we keep the safety in mind."
Safety measures like staying in your car when other drivers are approaching. “We have a buddy system that we coincide with,” said Sibalski. “We just make sure that everybody's safe, colorful so you can see each other, radios and so on."
What happened at Canandaigua has rippled across the racing community.
“He's part of our racing community. And we're a very small, close-knit type community and our hearts go out for him and his family. It's just tragic,” said Sibalski.
Tony Stewart has not been charged with any crime related to this incident. The Ontario County Sheriff's Office says there is no evidence of criminal intent in the death of Kevin Ward.
Stewart is known as a controversial racer. Last year, he was caught on camera punching Joey Logano.
And in 2011, he was questioned by Australian police after reportedly hitting the owner of a racetrack there with his helmet.
Sports law attorney John Wolohan says the future is uncertain for Stewart and for the entire sport.
"This probably couldn't happen at a worse time for NASCAR they've been losing dollars over the last few years, They need the publicity and they need the drivers to win the races,” said Wolohan.
Incidents like this also tend to threaten sponsorships.
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