sport

Driver dies in Stewart crash

NASCAR champion Tony Stewart accidentally struck and killed a sprint car driver who had climbed from his car to confront him during a race in New York state.

Video footage from the Canandaigua Motorsports Park showed 20-year-old driver Kevin Ward Jr., wearing a black helmet and firesuit on a poorly lit track, walking toward Stewart's car before being hit and thrown 50 feet into the air.

Ward Jr was pronounced dead at hospital on Saturday night but local police confirmed their investigation is not criminal and that Stewart was "fully cooperative" and appeared "very upset" over the incident.

"A tragic accident took place last night during a sprint car race in which Tony Stewart was participating,\" read a statement by a spokesman for NASCAR team Stewart-Haas Racing.

\"Tony was unhurt, but a fellow competitor lost his life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

\"We're still attempting to sort through all the details and we appreciate your understanding during this difficult time."

Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Stewart was competing in the separate touring Empire Super Sprints series when the accident happened.

Stewart, 43, later cancelled plans to compete in a race on Sunday.

"He feels strongly this is the right thing to do," team manager Greg Zipadelli said.