Driver Cory Sparks, a friend of Ward’s, was driving in Saturday night’s race and was a few cars back when Ward was killed.
“The timing was unsafe,” he said of Ward’s decision to get out of his car to confront Stewart. “When your adrenaline is going, and you’re taken out of a race, your emotions flare.”
The crash Saturday came almost exactly a year after Stewart suffered a compound fracture to his right leg in a sprint car race in Iowa. The injury cost him the second half of the NASCAR season. Stewart only returned to sprint track racing last month, and won in his return, at Tri-City Motor Speedway in Michigan.
The broken leg cost him the entire second-half of last season and sidelined him during NASCAR’s important Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Stewart wasn’t cleared to get back in a race car until February, the day the track opened for preparations for NASCAR’s season-opening Daytona 500 began.
“Everybody has hobbies,” he said last month.
“That’s what I like to do when I have extra time. I don’t think there is anything wrong with doing it. I feel like there are a lot of other things I could be doing that are a lot more dangerous and a lot bigger waste of time with my time off do than doing that.”
Among Stewart’s many business interests is his ownership of Ohio dirt track Eldora Speedway, and his stake in Stewart-Haas Racing, which fields cars for Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Patrick.
The site of Saturday night’s crash is the same track where Stewart was involved in a July 2013 accident that seriously injured a 19-year-old driver. He later took responsibility for his car making contact with another and triggering the 15-car accident that left Alysha Ruggles with a compression fracture in her back.