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: Homestead tire test " Updated Chase Grid As Dale Earnhardt Jr . enters the final idle weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, he acknowledges that his Hendrick Motorsports team needs to do some homework to improve their chances in the postseason Chase. But on a personal level, he's also going to take time to do his own homework, gathering ideas for how his upcoming wedding might unfold. Earnhardt recounted an eventful night at Bristol Motor Speedway , assessed his team's playoff hopes and talked nuptials during this Tuesday's edition of the "Dale Jr . Download" podcast on Dirty Mo Radio. Earnhardt Jr .'s playoff eligibility is safe, thanks to two regular-season victories that have sealed his spot on the 16-driver Chase Grid. But the 40-year-old driver said his No. 88 team needs to make headway against its rivals in the performance department. Joe Gibbs Racing has won six of the last nine Sprint Cup events, and Team Penske 's Joey Logano has captured two of the last three checkered flags. "We've got to work on this Chase. We've got to get ready for that," Earnhardt said. "We've got a couple of races left before that happens, so we'll try to learn as much as we can. I think that it's been commented on in the media, and Jeff (Gordon) and myself and ( Hendrick Motorsports GM Doug) Duchardt and all the people at Hendrick are certainly aware that we need to make some gains and work real hard to try to improve to put ourselves in a more comfortable position going into the Chase so we're more confident about our opportunity to win a championship because we're definitely seeing some teams perform really well right now and just trying to figure out where we need to improve to give them a hell of a run for it. "Not too concerned. You know the sport can cycle pretty quickly, and hopefully we'll peak at the right time." Before joining the Sprint Cup circuit in taking a rare weekend off, Earnhardt said he would participate in an open test at Homestead-Miami Speedway , site of the championship finale race Nov. 22. Then it's off to be a part of a friend's wedding, which he said could prepare him for the planning stages with fiancée Amy Reimann. "Looking forward to that. Maybe I'll take some notes and try to recharge our batteries this last off weekend for the rest of the season. This season went by pretty fast and I think the end of it's going to go by just as quick."
Eight tweets from around the NASCAR Twitterverse Editor's note: Every Friday, "Tweets you might have missed" will present eight of the best NASCAR-related tweets from the week. 1. Before I put this old thing under lock and key, I just had to try it on. Dads 2001 IROC uniform. pic.twitter.com/SQtUSdGmWG — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) August 23, 2015 2. Cartman went on a diet @Blaney pic.twitter.com/Rbuz70eg1W — Joey Logano (@joeylogano) August 21, 2015 3. Paddle boards have so many uses! ☀️ pic.twitter.com/CLFhGiq94w — Danica Patrick (@DanicaPatrick) August 25, 2015 4. . @KevinHarvick 's little fan wanted to bring him a cupcake from her brother's birthday party. So sweet! pic.twitter.com/07z5DVgBDM — JR Motorsports (@JRMotorsports) August 20, 2015 5. Oh, by the way you may want to invite some friends for dinner! #TeamMcD pic.twitter.com/oQLKIE5Dgg — Jamie McMurray (@jamiemcmurray) August 21, 2015 6. Amen. Goodnight ✌️ pic.twitter.com/Nd2hesmKiq — Michael Waltrip (@mw55) August 21, 2015 7. Warning- I've officially graduated into one of those annoying parents that's telling everyone about their baby's first laugh today. — Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) August 27, 2015 8. How fake driving is made, starring @Keselowski https://t.co/9CXOyMnRr8 — Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) August 26, 2015 FAN TWEET OF THE WEEK: If Nature's Bakery made beef jerky. I'd buy it. #NASCAR — Rick Kaufman (@RickKaufman1) August 26, 2015
A look at the inspiration for Ricky Stenhouse Jr .'s Darlington paint scheme.
MORE: Buy tickets for Darlington SHOP: Darlington gear " Dale Jr . Valvoline gear DARLINGTON, S.C. -- One of the former drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr . has said he respected as a youngster was NASCAR Hall of Fame member and three-time premier series champion Cale Yarborough. When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Darlington for this year’s Bojangles' Southern 500 , scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 6 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Earnhardt and his Hendrick Motorsports team will pay homage to the five-time winner of the series’ oldest superspeedway event. Earnhardt's No. 88 Chevrolet will feature a paint scheme reminiscent of the Valvoline look run by Yarborough in 1981-82 while competing for car owner M.C. Anderson. It will also honor others who ran the familiar red, blue and white colors such as Buddy Baker and Neil Bonnett. The endeavor is part of Darlington Raceway's throwback celebration surrounding the return of the Bojangles' Southern 500 to the Labor Day weekend race date, as well as a kick-off for Valvoline's upcoming Legacy celebration of the brand's 150th anniversary next season. RELATED: See more throwback paint schemes for Darlington "I've always been a fan of Cale's and the car that we run on the Sprint Cup side right now with the Nationwide colors is sort of inspired by his 1977 paint scheme," Earnhardt Jr . said during a recent video shoot at the legendary facility. "I admired his style and how he approached driving, definitely admired the accomplishments he had in the sport." Earnhardt, Yarborough and former championship-winning crew chief Ray Evernham took part in the day-long process at the 1.366-mile track. Yarborough, inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2012, was the first driver to win three consecutive premier series titles. He is sixth on the all-time win list with 83 career victories. Earnhardt was involved in the development of the car's paint scheme as well as his fire suit, which also pays tribute to the former drivers that sported Valvoline colors. Even the shoes to be worn by Earnhardt have a throwback tie-in, specifically to those used by Yarborough. "The suit is just like his," said Earnhardt. "And he had this (blue) color shoes. There's a picture of him with his car at Daytona in the grass before the 500 and he's wearing Carolina blue (shoes) -- he doesn't call 'em Carolina blue, being from Timmonsville -- but they sort of match this part of the V (in the Valvoline logo); I think that's what they were going for." RELATED: Junior shares influence on Michigan look Valvoline has been a major associate sponsor of Hendrick Motorsports , which fields four full-time entries in the Sprint Cup Series, since 2014. Next month's race will be its first as a primary sponsor since aligning with Hendrick, but it has a deep history in auto racing. "A lot of it came together, actually, at the urging of Dale," Jamal Muashsher, Director Brand Marketing for Valvoline, said of the program. "He obviously knows the history of the brand and the legacy that Valvoline has had in the sport. He approached us about trying to come back with a paint scheme, especially with this special race that Darlington has coming up next month. "Obviously we were very interested. It was a great opportunity … as we get ready for our 150th anniversary. It's a great way to celebrate our history as well as pay homage to the legacy of the brand over that time." According to Muashsher, the special paint scheme will be just one part of the program celebrating the company’s rich auto racing history. A series of videos featuring Earnhardt, Yarborough and three-time championship winning crew chief Ray Evernham will be located on the Valvoline YouTube channel. Limited-edition die-casts of the No. 88 Chevrolet entry featuring the paint scheme will be available in participating Walmart stores beginning Aug. 31. "There is a lot of great history there," Muashsher said, "and a lot of great imagery from an amazing group of drivers that Valvoline has had the opportunity to work with." Yarborough said his association with Valvoline actually began in 1966, when he competed in the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. RELATED: Learn more about Cale Yarborough "When I came back to NASCAR, I brought them with me," he said. "They were a part of my career for almost the entire time. They were a good company to work with, good people and a good product and I just enjoyed my association with them. "It's an honor to have Dale Jr . driving the Valvoline car." Earnhardt said initial talks about Valvoline coming on board as a primary sponsor began late last season. The announcement of the Darlington throwback program was a bonus that helped put the idea on the fast track. "The car looks great and it's awesome to be able to include Cale," Earnhardt said. "I hope that he is enjoying being a part of it. "It's good to have Ray here. He's sort of the glue that holds it all together. … It's been fun. I've been really surprised that this came together so well." Photo credit: Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s Twitter account, @DaleJr
Sprint New George Ad 15
Drivers sporting alter egos at the Wisconsin road course Ladies and gentlemen, meet Raymond Wiggles. My cousin, Raymond Wiggles is filling in for me this weekend! pic.twitter.com/LzNmaFmz9y — Darrell Wallace Jr (@BubbaWallace) August 28, 2015 So, uh, Roush Fenway Racing driver Darrell Wallace Jr . and Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney are looking a little different this weekend at Road America, site of Saturday's Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN). Ryan @Blaney and @BubbaWallace are looking good @roadamerica this morning. pic.twitter.com/1HhbUyZ7HU — Team Penske (@Team_Penske) August 28, 2015 Bubba had to teach his friend Ryan Blaney how to tie a tie this morning pic.twitter.com/HRSc0NDtTv — Roush Fenway Racing (@roushfenway) August 28, 2015 Looking good, @BubbaWallace ! pic.twitter.com/R4r1K67jQs — Roush Fenway Racing (@roushfenway) August 28, 2015 There's very little context for why, exactly, the two drivers are dressed the way they are, but here are a few shots in the dark. 1. Bubba and Blaney thought Darlington was this weekend and only packed their retro throwback outfits. 2. They heard "Anchorman 3" was shooting in Wisconsin, of all places. 3. They each lost bets -- to each other. 4. They got kicked out of a dairy tour for eating too much cheese, but needed disguises so they could sneak back in ... to eat more cheese. Whatever the reason, Bubba eventually removed his getup. You know, because he had to get behind the wheel of a race car. All good things must come to an end. @BubbaWallace removes the mustache, but his wig stays. pic.twitter.com/e6unEZUh1n — Roush Fenway Racing (@roushfenway) August 28, 2015
RELATED: Complete race results " Updated standings ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- The decision to compete in Saturday afternoon's NASCAR XFINITY Series sixth annual Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville at Road America (Wisconsin) paid off in a huge way for Paul Menard , who scored his third career XFINITY victory at his hometown track. Menard, a native of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, started eighth and saw a decision to stay out after pitting on Lap 24 work to his advantage as he edged out a relentless Ryan Blaney by 0.573 seconds at the 14-turn road course. After the contest, Menard said had the race extended a lap farther, he would not have collected his first XFINITY win since Michigan International Speedway last June. "I've been really fortunate to win at some of the coolest tracks, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Road America is right there," Menard said. "These guys called a great race. We didn't have the fastest car. We had a really good short run car. We really burned off the rear tires as we ran, but the Richmond Water Heaters/Menards Chevrolet was fast and (crew chief Danny) Stockman made a hell of a call at the end." If wondering about running out of fuel wasn't enough, Menard also had to fend off a hard-charging Blaney. "I was definitely concerned," added Menard on both circumstances. "I was saving as much as I could under caution, but then when we fired off I was just chattering the left rear tire really bad. It took a couple of laps for it to come in, then the (No.) 22 started burning his stuff up, but it just didn't fire off very good in the end, but it came to us." After inclement weather forced the cancellation of Coors Light Pole qualifying, Ben Rhodes earned the top starting spot based upon turning the fastest lap at the 4.048-mile road course in the first XFINITY Series practice session Friday afternoon. Rhodes, a NASCAR Next alum, would find himself under pressure from the drop of the green flag when JR Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott made the move for the lead in Turn 1. Quickly, though, the field would be under the first full-course caution of the day when Tomy Drissi found himself stuck in the gravel trap in Turn 5. Racing resumed on Lap 4 with Elliott checking out from the field and before the first round of green-flag pit stops. The reigning champion stretched his lead to over 10 seconds, when he relinquished the top spot on Lap 11 for a routine pit stop. Championship contender Ty Dillon inherited the lead when Elliott pitted. Dillon, who finished 10th, stretched his fuel run an extra lap to earn a crucial bonus point toward the championship picture. When pit stops cycled through, Elliott reclaimed the point on Lap 16 and built a 13.7-second lead over second-place Brian Scott at the halfway mark. On Lap 22, the second caution waved for fluid on the track, erasing Elliott's substantial advantage. Despite half of the field electing to come to pit road for service behind them, Elliott and his JRM team stood firm on their plan and stayed out. On the restart, Elliott withstood a challenge for Brian Scott and Ryan Blaney , but in Turn 14 and through the frontstretch, Scott mounted the pressure and made the move on Elliott to take the lead on Lap 27. Unable to make it to the end on fuel, Scott pitted under green on Lap 29 handing the lead to defending race winner Brendan Gaughan . Three laps later, though, Gaughan pitted, handing the lead to hometown hero Paul Menard who pitted during the second caution with 13 laps remaining. Planning to stay out till the end, Menard in saving mode purposely gave up the lead to Blake Koch ,who led with 10 laps remaining when pole-sitter Rhodes found himself stuck in the gravel trap in Turn 7 issuing the third full course caution. During the extended caution, Koch lost power, putting Menard back at the point. On the Lap 41 restart, Menard withstood challenges from Darrell Wallace Jr . and Blaney to seal the win in his 197th career start. Next up for the NASCAR XFINITY Series is a trip to the track dubbed "Too Tough To Tame" at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway for the VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 on Sept. 5 (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC).
RELATED: See how Smith won at Mid-Ohio ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- Regan Smith used a bit of bumper two weeks ago to become NASCAR's most recent road-course winner, shoving road-racing veteran Alex Tagliani in the last lap at Mid-Ohio to take his first XFINITY Series victory of the year. With the final road-course race of the season looming at Road America , Smith said he doesn't have regrets about the late-race contact, which left Tagliani steaming with cross post-race words. "I think if you're in that same situation, you've got to do what you can do to go for wins," Smith said before opening XFINITY practice Friday at the 4.048-mile circuit. "I guess in that circumstance in that situation, I didn't wreck him, just had a little bumper tag there and we came out as the beneficiary of it. I have not spoken to Alex and didn't really figure he'd be in the mood right after the race to talk at all, so I think possibly down the road, we will. He's somebody that I've raced with a few times now and enjoy racing with him. I think he would understand the scenario of going for wins and doing what we've got to do there. "It's a fine line. There's wrecking a guy and there's moving him and getting the position. We see the moving all the time. It's not anything new. It's been done in our sport for a thousand times and a thousand more times in the future, I'm sure. The feedback I got from drivers, crew members, you name it, they thought it was a good move and they thought it was fine. I didn't really hear too much negative about it." Smith's victory helped bolster the JR Motorsports driver's case for a series championship. Though he ranks fourth -- 51 points behind series leader Chris Buescher -- he noted that plenty can change with 11 races remaining on the calendar. "I think we're still in it," Smith said. "We're racing like we're still in it, and the mindset is to go out and do everything we can to lead laps and win races. And if you're doing that, you close up on points even quicker than you can imagine." While the title fight for this season has ramped up, Smith has also kept a focus on making his 2016 plans final. His recent remarks about his potential free-agent status have sparked interest into what next season might hold, plus in which series he'll be competing. Smith reiterated his goal of returning to the Sprint Cup Series, where he's performed admirably in fill-in roles the last two seasons -- including three races this year in place of the suspended Kurt Busch and one race after Kyle Larson 's fainting spell on the eve of the first Martinsville race of 2015. "Working hard every day to figure out 2016," Smith said. "I think I've been clear for the better part of two and a half years now that I want to get back to Sprint Cup and do that at some point, so I'm fortunate to be in fast race race cars at JR Motorsports right now and have an amazing opportunity here and definitely don't take that for granted. At the same time, I want to give myself that opportunity to get back to the other series. As soon as all that stuff plays out and I have answers, then I'll given them as soon as I can."
RELATED: Practice 2 results The NASCAR XFINITY drivers were battling some weather conditions during the second practice session on Friday afternoon with light rain. Despite the rain, Paul Menard was the fastest during the second practice at Road America . Menard's No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet clocked in at 108.202 mph. Second on the leaderboard was the No. 54 Toyota of Boris Said , soaring around the 4.048-mile road course at 108.044 mph. Chase Elliott 's No. 9 Chevrolet had some speed in the second session with a quickest lap of 107.672 mph, followed by the No. 22 Ford of Ryan Blaney (107.656 mph), for fourth on the leaderboard. Rounding out the top five was the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Ty Dillon (107.636 mph). NASCAR XFINITY Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying for the Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville is set for Saturday afternoon at 12:15 p.m. ET (NBCSN/ Live Extra ). The Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville will be held on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Live Extra. , MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). RELATED: Practice 1 results Ben Rhodes topped the leaderboard for Friday afternoon's first NASCAR XFINITY Series practice session at Road America for the Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville. Rhodes' No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet posted a fastest lap of 108.500 mph. The No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet of Chase Elliott was next on the leaderboard, clocking in a fastest lap of 108.133 mph. Last week's winner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Ryan Blaney , rounded out the top three with a fast lap of 108.039 mph in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford. The No. 42 Chevrolet of Justin Marks (107.948 mph) and the No. 2 Chevrolet of Brian Scott (107.947 mph) came in fourth and fifth, respectively. Points leader Chris Buescher just missed the top five as he had a fastest lap of 107.879 mph and was sixth on the leaderboard. The race at Road America is the final road course race of the 2015 season for the XFINITY Series.