(USA Today) Tony Stewart will not race Sunday at Watkins Glen International.
Just a few hours after telling USA TODAY Sports that Sunday would be ''business as usual,'' and Tony Stewart would race at Watkins Glen International as scheduled, the team has reversed course.
Greg Zipadelli, vice president of competition for Stewart-Haas Racing, announced the three-time Sprint Cup champion would not start the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen a day after striking and killing an on-foot driver in a sprint car race.
Original story: Tony Stewart hits, kills driver in race
Regan Smith will start for him.
Around 2 p.m. on Sunday, Stewart released this 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 struck and killed driver Kevin Ward Jr., 20, who approached his car on-foot after an on-track incident at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, about an hour north of Watkins Glen International.
"Everything that's been made available to us at this time would not preclude (Stewart) from participating in this event here today," NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said earlier Sunday morning.
He also said earlier that NASCAR has been monitoring the situation and will "honor the process and respect the timeline of the local authorities."
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends and competitors and everyone involved at that complex up there," Tharp said. "While it was a non-NASCAR-sanctioned event, everyone in the motor sports community has feelings for these types of situations. We've been through them before."
During Saturday night's sprint car race, Ward Jr. was spun out by Stewart, got out of his car to show his displeasure and then was struck by Stewart's car, sending Ward sliding down the track, fellow sprint car racer Tyler Graves and witness Adam Dulski told USA TODAY Sports.
"This is an ongoing investigation of an on-track crash," Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff Philip C. Povero said early Sunday morning.
The crash was a topic of conversation early Sunday morning among race fans at Watkins Glen.
"Everybody was talking about it, and everybody has seen the video," said 42-year-old Leo Smith of Perinton, a suburb of Rochester, N.Y. Smith camped at the track and had spoken with 10-15 other fans by 7:30 a.m. "It's crazy," he said.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. tweeted Sunday: "We will all loose someone in our time. When a loss is sudden and unexpected, the pain & sadness is suffocating. Prayers for the Ward family."
Jeff Gordon will start on the pole for the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. Stewart, a five-time Watkins Glen winner, qualified 13th.