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Tony Stewart will not race today; Regan Smith to drive No. 14 (UPDATED with NASCAR statement)

Aug 10, 2014, 11:14 AM EDT

Tony Stewart Getty Images

UPDATE, 11:15 a.m. ET: NASCAR has just issued a statement on the situation:

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and fellow competitors of Kevin Ward Jr. We support Tony Stewart’s decision to miss today’s race and we will continue to respect the process and timeline of the local authorities and will continue to monitor this situation moving forward.”

In a short press conference this morning at Watkins Glen International, Stewart-Haas Racing competition director Greg Zipadelli confirmed that Tony Stewart will not compete in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It 355.

Zipadelli said that NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Regan Smith, who has made 171 career Sprint Cup starts, will fill in for Stewart in the No. 14 SHR Chevrolet.

This decision comes after Zipadelli reportedly told USA Today that Sunday would be “business as usual” for the No. 14 team.

Stewart was involved in an incident Saturday night at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park in which he struck and killed an on-foot driver during a sprint car event.

“It’s just a unbelievable tragedy,” Zipadelli said this morning. “Our hearts go out to obviously Kevin and his family, thoughts and prayers. This is a very tough, very emotional time for everybody – his family, our family, Stewart Haas, Tony Stewart.

“So, with that being said, we feel as a group – Tony will not drive today. Regan Smith is on his way up. NASCAR has approved for him to get in the race car today. They’re gonna do everything they can to help us expedite getting his seat so he can be comfortable.

“That’s kind of what we’ve been working on and trying to get executed – get Regan here and obviously, anything we can do for Tony and everybody else. It’s just an emotional time right now.”

Zipadelli said that he met with Stewart this morning, and that “he feels strongly that this is the right thing to do.”

“We at SHR support it and agree with it,” he said. “Like I said, it’s a difficult time for both parties. There’s not a lot you can do. The only thing we can do is do what we feel is right, and this is what we feel is right. We’re supporting Tony in it.”

Stewart was to start 13th in today’s event and was still seeking to earn a regular season win that would put him into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

However, by not starting today’s race, he will be eliminated from post-season contention.

But Zipadelli insisted that the Chase scenario was “the furthest thing from our minds right now” and today was simply about getting through the race “the best we can as a group.”

“There’s a few of us who were in there just supporting him,” he added. “He’s a brother to me…He’s way more than a boss. He’s going through a tough time and it’s emotional for him. Like I said, as a group, we support him.

“We feel like he’s doing the right thing, and we’ll move on from this.”

  1. worknman24hours - Aug 10, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    This the proper thing to do because a man has died here under not fully explained circumstances,it looks bad and the emotions are running very high across the racing world right now.

    Tony’s done the right thing here.

    Stay safe Smoke.

  2. godsholytrousers - Aug 10, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    Murder, in my opinion. NASCAR needs to ban this sick man from racing while this plays out in the courts. Of course, there is still be money to be made from Tony Stewart and not Kevin Ward Jr, so I expect to see Tony racing again next week, and his fanboys cheering all the way. Sickening really, isn’t it?

  3. ecnc30 - Aug 10, 2014 at 11:22 AM

    Stewart should not be racing in these sprint car races with younger kids. he shows off enough in Sprint Cup. NASCAR should sit him down for the rest of the season until the investigation of this DEATH is complete.

  4. manik56 - Aug 10, 2014 at 11:31 AM

    Murders my fantasy squad. As for last night, negligence at most.

  5. digbysellers - Aug 10, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    Those spouting murder are clearly uninformed imbeciles. For now stick to what is known about the situation and stop reveling in the drama you wish to create.

  6. jerze2387 - Aug 10, 2014 at 11:45 AM

    Whether intentional or not, it seems stewart is a danger in sprint cars. In the last year and a half, he broke his leg, broke alysha ruggles back, and now was involved in the death of a guy. That’s a lot in a short time span from one guy. And the girl who’s back he broke was 19, guy he mowed down last night was 20….does he like pushing kids around?

    I’ve always been a stewart fan, but clearly when he’s in a sprint car there’s something not right. And him racing with and hurting these kids makes it seem like he’s the middle aged man on the playground playing baseball with little leaguers. And lately he’s been throwing a lot of beanballs.

    • crunge4461 - Aug 10, 2014 at 12:12 PM

      Also, remember that Sprint car racing is substantially more dangerous than Sprint Cup racing. People are seriously injured in Sprint cars often, so to my point, I am not certain that there is evidence to really suggest that Stewart has been an excessive hazard to others on the race track, i.e. bad accidents happen in Sprint cars.

      Stewart racing these types of events is great for small time racing, Stewart is on many levels a great steward for small time racing and this happening is very sad. From what I saw in the video it appears to be a tragic accident and I feel very bad for the family of Kevin Ward and also for Stewart because he now has this on his conscience for the rest of his life. Very sad indeed.

      • jerze2387 - Aug 10, 2014 at 2:28 PM

        Once or twice I could understand the hazards of sprint racing point. But 3 major incidents in a year? How many of the hundreds of other drivers across the country have had 3 major accidents in a year, especially in the limited schedule he runs in sprints? The percentage of his major accidents is pretty high. Not sure how many other drivers have seperately broken somebody’s back, broken their own leg, and run over/ killed another driver in a years time

        Once is an accident. Twice is a coincidence. 3 incidents is a pattern

  7. rupp246 - Aug 10, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    Sad thing is this whole thing could have been avoided. Any driver getting out of a car and walking anywhere other than off the track should be suspended. Period. This should be for all motor sports. Problem is this wouldn’t make for good TV , NASCAR and everyone else likes the drama.

    • crunge4461 - Aug 10, 2014 at 1:16 PM

      Making a new rule, a new law, to solve each and every apparent incident or problem is not the answer. Of the hundreds of times that a driver has done this there is one tragic incident and suddenly the pitchforks come out and there is this call for some totalizing rule. Making that rule is only going to further neuter the sport, there are already way too many rules in top tier motorsports

  8. fordmandalay - Aug 10, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    Most likely manslaughter, not murder. Not premeditated, but a crime of passion, an “I’ll show YOU, punk!” moment that went bad. But he’ll never be charged due to the two-tier legal system.

  9. charger383 - Aug 10, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    Would Ward have done this with a local driver or does he want to show off with a big name driver?

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