Tony Stewart claims he did not see fellow driver Kevin Ward Jr. walking down the track until just before Stewart's car struck the driver during a sprint car race last year in upstate New York, according to court documents. Stewart's view of the incident -- in which Ward was killed -- was made public Friday in a legal response to the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Ward's parents earlier this month. In an Aug. 9 event at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, Ward climbed out of his car following a wreck and walked down onto the track to apparently confront Stewart under caution. Stewart's car struck the 20-year-old, who was killed. An Ontario County (N.Y.) grand jury ruled last September that Stewart would not face criminal charges. Friday's filing by Stewart's attorney Brian Gwitt in part reads: " Stewart did not see Ward Jr. exit his vehicle and was not aware that Ward Jr. had exited his vehicle. Stewart was not aware that anyone had exited the vehicle. " Stewart did not see Ward Jr., or anyone else walking on foot on the track until just prior to contact, and did not know the identity of the person walking on the track until afterwards." The document also notes the initial toxicology report that found Ward had marijuana in his system, which the district attorney said last year impaired the driver's judgment, in its counter to the claims by Ward’s parents.
RELATED: Drivers react to Wilson's death NASCAR drivers, teams and others within the industry responded with care and concern Sunday after IndyCar driver Justin Wilson was critically injured in a crash during the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway . Officials with Stewart -Haas Racing confirmed Monday that three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart provided his private plane and pilots to the Wilson family to allow members to travel from Indianapolis to the hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where Wilson had been transported. Wilson died late Monday at age 37 from a head injury, according to The Associated Press. It's not the first time Stewart , 44, has reached out to help those in need. But similar to previous instances, Stewart provided the assistance privately. That didn't keep others from taking to social media to note his generosity. IndyCar driver Graham Rahal, second in points, took to Twitter to thank Stewart , co-owner and driver at SHR, for the gesture, writing "You're a hell of a man for donating your plane for JWs family. Hats off to you, you're a very generous human being!” Beccy Hunter-Reay, wife of former IndyCar champ and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay also cited Stewart's generosity, tweeting "words can't describe how thankful the @IndyCar community is for your generosity in helping JWs family." Wilson was injured when he appeared to be struck in the head by debris from a late-race crash involving Sage Karam in the first turn at the 2.5-mile track. The Andretti Autosport driver's car then veered left off the racing surface where it bounced off the inside wall. Emergency workers were quickly on the scene, and Wilson was transported by helicopter to a nearby hospital. Jamie McMurray , who drives for team owner Chip Ganassi in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, tweeted: "Praying for @justin_wilson. He is one of the nicest guys I have ever met. Amazing driver as well." Ganassi is a longtime IndyCar team owner, and Karam was one of four Ganassi drivers competing in Sunday's event. Kurt Busch , the 2004 Sprint Cup champion, also took to Twitter to say "Praying hard for @justin_wilson. Thinking of his family and everyone at @FollowAndetti & @IndyCar." Busch competed in the Indianapolis 500 in 2014 for Andretti Autosport, finishing sixth in his open-wheel debut. Wilson was part of the winning team for the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2012 with fellow drivers AJ Allmendinger , Oswaldo Negri Jr. and John Pew while competing for Michael Shank Racing. He had 17 career starts in GRAND-AM/ALMS/IMSA events.
RELATED: 'Smoke' looks to move forward in return to Watkins Glen MORE: See Sunday's lineup WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Three-time premier series champion Tony Stewart will start third in Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at The Glen (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM) following his best qualifying effort of the season. Stewart (127.410 mph) trailed only pole winner and defending race winner AJ Allmendinger (127.839) and Martin Truex Jr . (127.569) following Coors Light Pole Qualifying here at Watkins Glen International on Saturday. "That was all I had," Stewart , 44, said. "I'm very content with that. Three good weeks of qualifying, that really makes me happy to do it at three different tracks with three different (rules) packages. This is an awesome way to start the weekend for sure." Sitting 25th in points, Stewart needs a victory within the next five races to earn one of the 16 positions in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Sunday's race will mark his first start at the 2.45-mile road course since 2012. A five-time winner here, Stewart suffered a broken leg in a sprint car accident in Iowa less than a week before the 2013 Watkins Glen race. The injury forced him out for the final 15 races of the season. Last year, Stewart was involved in a sprint car accident on the eve of the Watkins Glen event. Driver Kevin Ward Jr. was killed when he was struck by Stewart's car. Stewart sat out for three races before he eventually returned to complete the season. On Friday, Ward's family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Stewart -Haas Racing co-owner/driver. SHR officials have not issued an official comment regarding the suit. Greg Zipadelli, competition director for SHR and Stewart's crew chief for two of his three championships, said Saturday's qualifying run by Stewart was big. "It's cool … for Tony to be at a place he loves and where he's had a lot of success," Zipadelli said. "He had a good car yesterday, they spent some time looking at where he felt like he was off and he went out and (got the job done) today. "I think it’s awesome for this group of guys, awesome for him and we're certainly looking forward to tomorrow." The task to get better results on race day remains. Stewart started fourth at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and fifth a week later at Pocono Raceway. He finished 28th at Indy; his ninth-place run at Pocono was only his second top-10 of the season. "We are pretty happy with how they have progressed," Zipadelli said. "But let's face it, they're not leading laps yet and (competing) for wins … that's what we need to do. We've still got some room to continue to grow. "But I think it's now to the point, the confidence -- you saw him come in last Monday to the shop and was upbeat about the way he ran and qualified the last two weeks. I see him walking around here today; I saw him this morning. He's happy. That's what we need."
RELATED: Patrick inks new deal with sponsor, SHR " Busch extension coming 'soon' KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- A planned fifth operation on Tony Stewart 's surgically repaired right leg may not happen after all, the three-time NASCAR champion said Tuesday. Stewart , who severely fractured his lower right leg in a sprint car accident in August 2013, has already had four surgeries, the most recent coming last December. A proposed fifth operation in the offseason would allow doctors to remove his stabilizing titanium rod hardware, but Stewart said he'll find out the status of the surgery in a couple of months. "We actually don't know yet. There's potential that we may not have to have the operation, after all," Stewart said Tuesday at the announcement of Danica Patrick 's new contract and sponsorship deal at Stewart -Haas Racing . "The rod that's in there might stay in there, so at the end of October we're having a meeting with the doctor and we're going to make that decision. Either way, it's either one-and-done or we're done." Stewart broke both his tibia and fibula in a crash at Southern Iowa Speedway, forcing him to miss the final 15 races of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. He had three surgeries that year, followed by a fourth just ahead of 2014 Champion's Week, when his teammate Kevin Harvick was feted for his first Sprint Cup crown. Stewart said Tuesday that his leg felt "good," and that the signing of Nature's Bakery to sponsor Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet was a bonus step in a positive, health-conscious direction. Still, Stewart said he's not feeling quite fit enough to emulate Patrick's yoga moves, which tout her flexibility on social media. "I doubt it," Stewart grinned. "Danica and I joked around, I said every time she does one of these poses and posts it on the internet, I'm going to do the same thing. But I said we've got to make sure there's a deal where you don't do but about two or three a week because I'm going to have to have a recovery period for when I break myself."
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- With Danica Patrick back in the Stewart -Haas Racing fold for 2016 and beyond, the team alignment for the four-driver NASCAR Sprint Cup Series campaign is less of a "glass half full" proposition and more like three-quarters full after Tuesday's announcement. The remaining piece to the SHR puzzle is also its most recent addition -- Kurt Busch , who moved over to drive the No. 41 Chevrolet in 2014. Team co-owner Tony Stewart summed up the timing of potentially re-signing the 37-year-old driver in one word: "Soon." Stewart's Tuesday morning comments backed up remarks by Gene Haas, the team's co-owner, in recent weeks, stating that a contract extension with the former Sprint Cup champion was nearing completion. "I think we're getting close on that as well," Stewart said after Patrick's No. 10 Nature's Bakery Chevrolet was unveiled at the SHR shop. "Like I said, the great thing is it's seamless transitions at this point, so if we can finish up a couple details then we'll be able to focus on making these race cars good for the Chase again." Busch and Stewart -Haas teammate Kevin Harvick are among those drivers who have already clinched a return trip to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. Harvick, the defending Sprint Cup champion, and Busch, who was crowned in 2004, are each two-time winners this season. Busch missed the first three races of the season because of a NASCAR-mandated suspension related to an investigation of domestic violence. After the absence, Busch has built upon his chemistry with veteran crew chief Tony Gibson, rallying to eighth place in the Sprint Cup driver standings with wins at Richmond and Michigan this year. Busch qualified for the Chase last season with a victory at Martinsville Speedway in just his sixth start for the team. He was eliminated from the 16-driver Chase field in the opening three-race round.
Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart have a puzzling day at Watkins Glen as Johnson has early troubles by missing the inner loop on Lap 5 and later on Lap 56 spins out. Stewart , also on Lap 56, has car troubles that take him out of the race.
Bruce: Never count 'Smoke' out, but he needs a win RELATED: Chase-clinching scenarios for Pocono It's been three years since Tony Stewart qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . And it's beginning to look as if the three-time series champion might miss this year's field of 16 as well. Stewart , 44, is 26th in points heading into this weekend's Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway. With only six races remaining before the field is set, it's unlikely that the co-owner/driver at Stewart -Haas Racing will qualify for one of the 16 positions based on points. To earn a chance to compete for this year's championship, Stewart needs nothing less than a victory in the coming weeks. Defending series champion Kevin Harvick , six-time champion Jimmie Johnson , '04 champ Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr . have officially clinched Chase berths. Joey Logano , Martin Truex Jr ., Brad Keselowski , Matt Kenseth , Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards are 2015 race winners and are currently 16th or higher in the points standings. Kyle Busch , riding a white-hot streak that has seen the Joe Gibbs Racing driver win three consecutive Sprint Cup events, and four of the last five, is on the doorstep of the top 30 in points (another Chase eligibility requirement). Non-winners, but those somewhat safely inside the top 16 in points include Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon . On less stable ground are Ryan Newman , Paul Menard and Kasey Kahne , currently 12th through 14th, respectively, in points. Unless he can advance his points position, Clint Bowyer , who sits 15th, would fall outside the Chase as soon as Kyle Busch cracks the top 30. Stewart is trying to climb into contention. Those on the periphery are likewise trying to advance -- or hold on -- to what they've earned thus far. A win in the coming weeks by anyone else, AJ Allmendinger (23rd) at Watkins Glen for example, would trump the points position of a non-winner inside the top 16. It's unlikely that someone such as Kahne, Menard or Bowyer is resting too comfortably these days. Kahne has made three consecutive appearances in the Chase, but isn't taking anything for granted; Menard's still chasing that first playoff opportunity; Bowyer, meanwhile, is attempting to return after missing the field a year ago. Aric Almirola (17th) and Greg Biffle (18th) made last year's Chase. Austin Dillon (19th) and Kyle Larson (20th) are still looking for that first career win and first Chase appearance. Would it be unwise to look past any of those drivers given the uncertain nature of racing? Rules package changes and a variety of tracks -- large, small and a road course to boot -- only serve to muddy the racing waters. Stewart's Chase absence has been well documented. A broken leg in 2013 sidelined the No. 14 driver for the season's final 15 races. A year ago, he missed three races prior to the start of the Chase, and while he was given a NASCAR exemption, Stewart failed to produce the necessary win or points position to qualify. Perhaps it would be just as unwise to look past Stewart , given what he has been able to accomplish in previous years. But the road ahead won't be an easy one for him or any of those looking to go from Chase hopeful to Chase qualifier. The calendar is starting to take an ugly turn. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
During a caution caused by Jimmie Johnson 's spin on Lap 58, Tony Stewart was stalled on the track and unable to move. This would bring his day to an early end after the car was taken to the garage. Stewart was heard saying on his radio, "Something broke." Stewart had posted his best qualifying run of the season at Watkins Glen, putting the No. 14 Stewart -Haas Chevrolet third on the starting grid. After getting his No. 14 Stewart -Haas Racing Chevrolet pushed off the track, "Smoke" headed to the garage with 30 laps left and his day was finished. Stewart is a five-time Watkins Glen winner and came into the race 25th in the points standings with just two top-10 finishes on the season. He finished the Cheez-It 355 in 43rd place and slipped to 26th place in teh standings, 405 points behind Sprint Cup Series leader Kevin Harvick .
After Daytona accident, 'Smoke' first on scene to check on 'Rowdy' INDIANAPOLIS -- A day after suffering a broken right leg and left foot in a Feb. 21 crash at Daytona International Speedway, Kyle Busch had his first hospital visitor. It was Tony Stewart , who had been sidelined in August 2013 by a sprint car accident that had caused a compound fracture of his right leg. As Busch's mind raced through possible dire consequences of his injuries, Stewart was there to offer support and counsel. " Tony was actually the first one to the hospital," Busch said on Saturday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the site of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at The Brickyard (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). "As soon as the Daytona 500 was over, he was there. He actually told everybody that was on his plane that they were going to wait. He was there for about four hours. We had a good talk. "We had a good discussion about just what it was like and the process that he had to go through and how long it was probably going to be or what it was going to be. In all reality, our injuries were the same but entirely different. His was much more severe than mine. Just being able to talk with him, my mind-set was OK." Stewart helped allay Busch’s fears that his injury might be career-ending. "At first I was like, 'I'm never going to race again, and I don’t know what I’m going to do' -- all those things go through your mind," Busch said. "You just continue to power through and listen to your doctors and those that are around you and, of course, my wife and the support system that I had. "I wouldn't call it painless. There was certainly a lot of pain, but it went really, really well as far as you could say any injury healing goes. I was pretty pleased with everything." If recent results are any indication, Busch has returned stronger than ever. He has won three of the last four Sprint Cup events, at Sonoma, Kentucky and New Hampshire. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
In the painful initial minutes after hearing Monday night's news that his good friend and former teammate Justin Wilson had died of injuries suffered in an IndyCar Series racing accident, NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger shared his raw and emotional reaction on social media . "Life isn't fair. We lost one of the great ones today.'' Allmendinger said on Twitter. He accompanied his tribute with a wonderfully telling old photo of himself -- at 5-feet, 6-inches -- standing on a racing tire alongside a smiling 6-foot-4 Wilson. It was so appropriate because Wilson, 37, was a person that Allmendinger -- and so many others -- looked up to figuratively, literally, on-track and off. "Justin was such a quiet guy, and the general public probably doesn't know much about him, so I want to let them know he was such an amazing person,'' Allmendinger said. "I want people to know he was a badass race car driver that, I felt, never got the credit he deserved. But the most important thing is as good as he was on the race track, he was so much better off it." "I truly looked up to him,'' Allmendinger added, acknowledging the pun. While the quiet Brit may not be a super familiar personality to many NASCAR fans, there are plenty of stock car connections to Wilson. Sprint Cup drivers Danica Patrick and Allmendinger competed alongside Wilson in Champ Car and later the IndyCar Series, where Wilson was a seven-time winner. RELATED: Drivers mourn the loss of Justin Wilson Cup driver Michael McDowell and former Cup racer Marcos Ambrose teamed with Wilson in Rolex 24 at Daytona sports car races as did former Camping World Truck Series competitor Max Papis , who also raced against Wilson in the open-wheel ranks. Allmendinger shared a seat with Wilson in five Rolex 24 races, and they were teammates as the long-shot small team Michael Shank Racing won the 50th anniversary edition of the Rolex 24. Wilson finished runner-up in Daytona's 24-hour race in 2010 driving for Cup owner Chip Ganassi. Of course, you didn't have to have know Wilson to appreciate the kind of racer and the kind of person he was. That's evident in the racing community with all the supportive social media tributes and well wishes sent by NASCAR drivers past and present many who never even met Wilson. In the hours immediately after Sunday's accident, three-time Cup champ Tony Stewart sent his plane to transport Wilson's younger brother Stefan to be at his brother's side in the hospital. RELATED: Stewart lends support to Wilson's family In many ways, Wilson's racing career -- and the way he went about it -- spoke much more loudly than the reserved Wilson ever needed to. Allmendinger recalls that he and Wilson were rookies together in Champ Car, except that Wilson was four years older than the young Californian at the time and fresh off a season in Formula One. "I was intimidated by him,'' Allmendinger said. "This guy was badass. It messed me up because I was so intimidated by it that all I wanted to do was beat him, because I knew if I beat him I was doing something pretty special." And Allmendinger considers his first major race win (2006 at Portland, Ore.) all the more special because it came after an intense duel with Wilson. "Here he had just finished second place and yet he was the first to come into Victory Lane and hug me,'' Allmendinger said. "It happened to come down to me and him battling for the win. I had just beat him and as I'm getting out of the car, he runs up and hugs me. That's the type of guy he was.'' It's a recurring theme when people speak of Wilson. He was one of those rare and exceptional individuals whom you never heard a harsh word spoken about. He was well respected as a person and a competitor, the latter sometimes under-appreciated. Despite the impressive resume Wilson brought to America, he mostly drove for underfunded, smaller teams. But he succeeded against the odds and always provided the underdog a legitimate shot. His win in 2012 at Texas Motor Speedway came for the small Dale Coyne Racing team. And just a few weeks ago -- in the midst of a part-time ride with Andretti Autosport with little to no testing in the cars -- he finished runner-up to Graham Rahal at Mid-Ohio. It was vintage Wilson. "He was a guy that never got a great opportunity especially late in his career, I always hoped Penske or Ganassi would pick him up,'' Allmendinger reflected Tuesday. "He was one of the best out there. But you know what, he always made the most out of it and never complained about it." I was always struck by what a strong family man he was -- a doting husband, devoted dad to his two girls and a proud big brother to Stefan, a promising young racer in his own right. "Justin was so good and always made me want to be at my best because I respect him so much,'' Allmendinger said. "He always made sure you were happy, you were OK. Always pumped me up. It drove me to be the best I could." And now Allmendinger and so many others in the racing community will honor their friend by doing the same for Wilson's family.