Stewart to skip race as fatality probe goes on
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, looks on in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International on August 8, 2014 - by Jared C. Tilton
Stewart-Haas racing, co-owned by three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Stewart, announced on Thursday that the star driver would not race in the upcoming event at Michigan International Speedway.
The team said Jeff Burton will drive instead, but the change only pertains to the upcoming race, leaving the door open for Stewart to return to NASCAR's top flight series this season.
"Tony Stewart has decided not to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event this weekend at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn," a statement from the team said.
Authorities in New York state said this week they expected their investigation into the death of 20-year-old racing driver Kevin Ward jnr to continue for at least two more weeks.
Ward was killed after he exited his damaged vehicle during an open-wheel sprint car race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park and was struck and dragged by Stewart's car.
The incident began when Stewart's car bumped Ward's and the young driver was sent into the wall.
Video showed Ward climbing out of his car and walking on the half-mile dirt track during the caution period, apparently pointing at Stewart as the motorsports veteran came around the dimly lit track.
Police said Monday they had found "no criminal behavior" on the part of Stewart, but they were still soliciting witnesses and video to aid their investigation.
Ward's father, Kevin Ward snr, told the Syracuse Post-Standard there was "no reason" for the initial crash that sparked the incident, and seemed unconvinced Stewart had given a full account of himself.
"The one person that knows what happened that night is possibly facing 10 years in prison. Is he going to say what he has done?" Ward told the newspaper.
Stewart has not raced since the incident, including pulling out of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen on Sunday, the day after Ward's death.
Funeral services were held Thursday for Ward in Turin, New York, where he attended high school.