The fatal rundown of a race car driver by racing star Tony Stewart was a "terrible" accident caused by circumstances on the course and not by malicious intent, a motor sports columnist and Stewart biographer told Newsmax TV
Monte Dutton told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner that it's "absurd" to suggest that NASCAR veteran Stewart intentionally drove at Kevin Ward Jr. on a dirt track where the two had just tangled in a non-NASCAR sprint car race on Saturday night in New York.
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Ward, 20, died after Stewart's car struck him and pulled him to the ground in front of horrified onlookers at Canandaigua Motorsports Park.
Ward had just exited his disabled racer — which had spun out after contact with Stewart's car — and was crossing the track on foot, between speeding cars, possibly to confront Stewart in the middle of the race.
Witnesses said Stewart's car appeared to speed up as it neared Ward. But Dutton, author of "Rebel With a Cause: A Season With NASCAR Star Tony Stewart
," said there's a defensible reason that Stewart might have accelerated.
"My guess is, it was a reflex action," said Dutton. "Tony saw this guy approaching and he gunned the car to get away."
Dutton said other factors could have contributed to the deadly collision in a nighttime race.
Ward, who was wearing a black racing suit, could have been difficult for Stewart to spot at a distance, especially from behind the wheel of a vehicle whose front-end roll cage reduces the driver's sight lines.
"It's difficult to see out other than the direction of your head," Dutton said of driving a sprint car. "They don't even have mirrors on them."
Dutton said an agitated Ward also may have slipped as he crossed the track near Stewart's car.
Whatever the cause of the accident, Dutton said, "It's a terrible, terrible thing, and we need to have all kinds of sympathy. But I think it's sort of absurd to suggest that Stewart intentionally ran into him or was trying to scare him or something like that. I think people put more into it than a person's reflexes allow."
Dutton also criticized initial media coverage of Ward's death as inaccurate and "hysterical."
"One of the first news items said . . . that when he was hit by Stewart's car he was thrown 50 yards through the air," said Dutton. "Well, at some point, rather than just getting some excited fan to say something lurid, someone has to pass judgment and say that's impossible."
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