Monday, December 22, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Ward crafted reputation as wheelman before death

By
August 13, 2014 |

Kevin Ward Jr.

ADDS MANDATORY CREDIT- This June 28, 2014 photo provided by Empire Super Sprints, Inc., shows sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr., at the Merrittville Speedway in Thorold, Canada. Ward was killed Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014 at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park in Central Square, N.Y., when the car being driven by Tony Stewart struck the 20-year-old who had climbed from his crashed car and was on the darkened dirt track trying to confront Stewart following a bump with Stewart one lap earlier. (AP Photo/Empire Super Sprints, Inc.)

PORT LEYDEN, N.Y. — Kevin Ward Jr. was crafting a reputation as a wheelman, the kind of driver who could race vehicles on any track without fear.

He’d sit up on his seat, floor it, and zip his way through a maze of cars straight toward the front of the pack.

For points. For fun. Often for little money.

“He would go to tracks that a lot of other drivers wouldn’t go to,” Chuck Miller, the race director and president for the Empire Super Sprints circuit, said Monday. “If we had co-sanctioned races with other organizations where we really weren’t giving points or anything, but it was a deal where you wanted to see how you stacked up against the other competition, the Wards were willing to go and do that and see where they were at.”

Ward began racing go-karts in 1998 at age 4. In 2010, he moved on to sprint cars and was Empire Super Sprint racing rookie of the year in 2012. The 20-year-old raced mostly on dirt tracks a few hours from his home in Port Leyden, a village of 700 in northern New York.

Ward was killed Saturday night about 140 miles away at a clay track in Canandaigua. NASCAR champion Tony Stewart was the big name in the field, racing with the young guys while he was in the area for a Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen the next day.

Ward and Stewart tangled, and Ward hit the wall. Ward walked on the track apparently to confront Stewart, and was struck when Stewart’s vehicle seemed to fishtail.

On Monday, several cars were parked in front of the Ward home in Port Leyden. A police officer stood across the street, politely asking reporters not to park on the road’s shoulder.

Helen McHale has lived across the street for 30 years and remembers hearing the noise when Ward raced go-carts. Kevin Ward Sr. runs a successful painting business, and locals thought his son might make it big in the racing world.

“His dad goes to every race,” she said. “He’s a good kid, polite, big smile, and they’re a good family.”

Stewart and Ward shared a love of racing sprint cars: high-powered, winged cars built for running on short oval or circular dirt and paved tracks. Drivers have to hit the gas to turn, not necessarily use the wheel.

After the crash, Ward was standing to the right of Stewart’s familiar No. 14 car on the dimly lit track. According to video and witness accounts, Ward was struck by the right rear tire and hurtled through the air.

Authorities questioned the 43-year-old Stewart once on Saturday night and went to Watkins Glen to talk to him again Sunday. Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said that investigators don’t have any evidence at this point to support criminal intent. Povero said Monday there were no plans “at this time” to talk to Stewart again.

“At this time, there are no facts that exist that support any criminal behavior or conduct, or that any probable cause of a criminal act, in this investigation,” he said.

Povero said the autopsy was completed Monday and found Ward died of blunt force trauma.

Stewart said Sunday “there aren’t words” to describe his sadness over Ward’s death.

Stewart hasn’t announced whether he’ll drive in this weekend’s NASCAR race at Michigan International Speedway, but his short track “hobby” is on hold. He won’t appear Saturday in a race in Warsaw, Indiana.

“It is still an emotional time for all involved, Tony included. He is grieving, and grief doesn’t have a timetable,” spokesman Mike Arning said Monday.

Canandaigua Speedway promoter Jeremie Corcoran said the track has canceled Wednesday’s event to give “my family, staff, fans, and racing teams time to grieve and process all that has occurred.”

Driver Matt Tanner, a friend of Ward’s, was a few cars back from the collision. Ward had been a good friend for years, a member of a small, tight group of drivers who traveled to various races around New York state, parts of Canada and Pennsylvania.

“I saw his car sitting there and when the ambulances pulled up I realized what was happening,” Tanner said.

He hasn’t watched the video and doesn’t plan to.

“Your emotions are running so high. Stewart’s known for being competitive, and Kevin was just as competitive,” said Tanner.

So competitive that he’d take his life into his own hands by stepping into traffic in a black firesuit on a dark track?

No one will know for sure why Ward made the treacherous decision to stalk Stewart.

But perhaps he was inspired by Stewart himself. Known for his volcanic temper, Stewart is among the drivers who made highlight reels by tossing helmets at windshields or throwing punches at competitors. The action captivates fans and is part of NASCAR’s allure — and inspires the next generation to mimic the bumping and brawling of their heroes.

What better way for a young driver to make a name for himself than being the one that stood up to Smoke?

Driver Cory Sparks, a fellow driver in Saturday’s race, said he and Ward became friends five years ago. He said Ward was aggressive and competitive and that the two men had “had our feuds” but that he was proud to call him a friend.

“I don’t want Kevin Ward to be remembered as a victim in a Tony Stewart accident,” he said. “He definitely had a future in this sport. He was a very aggressive driver. He was one hell of wheel man.”

Doug Elkins is a former race announcer who now writes about the sport. He had known Ward and his father for several years. Elkins said he expected rules prohibiting drivers from getting out of their cars during races will be better enforced around the country.

He hadn’t heard of any bad blood between Stewart and Ward.

“Anyone would want to beat him, Elkins said, “he’s Tony Stewart.”

Memorial services will be held Wednesday at the Trainor Funeral Home in Boonville, New York. The funeral is Thursday.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Christmas comes early to San Marco Street park

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1, 7 Comments | Gallery

 
Travis squadron delivers Christmas gifts to East Tabor

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
 
 
Multiple car accident blocks I-80 in Vacaville

By Glen Faison | From Page: A3, 2 Comments | Gallery

 
Famous Creations’ toy drive and cupcake sale

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Last-minute shopping at Vacaville Premium Outlets

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A4, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Kitchen fire dislocates family for Christmas

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4, 3 Comments | Gallery

Suisun City police log: Dec. 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

 
Fairfield police log: Dec. 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A9

Weather for Dec. 22, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B10

 
.

US / World

A look at the 2 NYC officers killed in ambush

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Killer of 2 NYC officers had long criminal history

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 4 Comments

 
Killings of 2 New York officers trigger backlash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 7 Comments

California puzzles over safety of driverless cars

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 5 Comments

 
Timeline of events before and after NY cop deaths

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Pakistan makes arrests in Taliban school carnage

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Tent city sprouts in shadow of downtown Detroit

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
US mulls putting NKorea on terrorism sponsor list

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Satanic Temple puts up display at Michigan Capitol

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 11 Comments

 
Australian woman charged with murder of 8 children

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Exit poll: Ex-regime official is Tunisia’s new president

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
.

Opinion

Faust and the 2015 federal budget

By Mike Kirchubel | From Page: A8, 17 Comments

 
Obama, surgeon general still losing to NRA

By Francis Wilkinson | From Page: A8, 5 Comments

Let the music begin

By Colleen Britton | From Page: A8, 4 Comments

 
Editorial Cartoon: Dec. 22, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
.

Living

Today in History: Dec. 22, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Dec. 22, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2, 1 Comment

Horoscopes: Dec. 23, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

 
 
Horoscopes: Dec. 22, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A7

.

Entertainment

TVGrid Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
TVGrid Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

‘Hobbit’ goes out on top with $90.6 million 5-day debut

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

 
Good news from Tom Brokaw: His cancer is in remission

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

Review: ‘The Interview’ deserves to be seen

By Jake Coyle | From Page: B7

 
Happy day: Elton John, David Furnish marry in England

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

.

Sports

The Week Ahead: Not much of a break for Christmas

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B1

 
Steelers, Packers win, move into playoffs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Raiders knock Bills out of playoffs with 26-24 win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Kings snap 5-game losing skid, beat Lakers 108-101

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Burns gives Sharks late-night win over Blues in OT

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
NFL Roundup: Cowboys end 4-year drought, make playoffs

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

7 hurt when lightning strikes near Tampa Bay game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
India’s Arjun Atwal wins Dubai Open

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Documents: FSU QB Winston cleared in conduct hearing

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Super-G crash makes Vonn wait in bid for record

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

.

Business

US companies eager to embrace Cuba face hurdles

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

 
Survey: US gas prices fall 25 cents per gallon

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

.

Obituaries

Marian Kay Zutz

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Bart Ferro

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Beetle Bailey Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Peanuts Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Garfield Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
For Better or Worse Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baldo Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Blondie Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Dilbert Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Frank and Ernest Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sally Forth Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
B.C. Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Wizard of Id Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baby Blues Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Zits Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Get Fuzzy Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Pickles Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Rose is Rose Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sudoku Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Bridge Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Word Sleuth Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Crossword Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Cryptoquote Dec 23

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Get Fuzzy Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Baby Blues Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Baldo Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Zits Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Peanuts Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Dilbert Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Sally Forth Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Pickles Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Rose is Rose Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Frank and Ernest Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Blondie Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

Beetle Bailey Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Garfield Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

B.C. Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Wizard of Id Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

For Better or Worse Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

 
Sudoku Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Cryptoquote Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Bridge Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

Word Sleuth Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

 
Crossword Dec 22

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7