NASCAR Sprint Cup star Jimmie Johnson said Friday that he believes the fatal incident involving Kevin Ward Jr. and Tony Stewart was "completely an accident" on the part of Stewart.
Stewart struck and killed Ward Jr. with his car at a dirt-track race in Canandaigua, New York, last Saturday after Ward Jr. got out of his car to confront Stewart during a caution.
The accident led to questions as to whether Stewart, known for his hot temper, tried to send his own message by buzzing Ward, or whether Ward recklessly stepped onto a dark track clad in black.
In Johnson's mind, there's no debate.
Jimmie Johnson on Stewart/Ward: “I know what I believe. I believe it was completely an accident." — Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) August 15, 2014
JJ on Stewart/Ward: “I feel for him, for Gene Haas, the team, the uncertainty. And the Ward family.” (More) — Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) August 15, 2014
JJ on Stewart/Ward (cont): "As much as I’m concerned for Tony, I think about the pain and sorrow the Ward family is going through.” (more) — Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) August 15, 2014
JJ on Stewart/Ward (cont): "It’s a sad set of circumstances & a hot button for opinion. When Tony does talk, many people will feel better." — Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) August 15, 2014
Johnson said he tried to contact Stewart but hasn't heard back.
After the accident, Stewart withdrew from the Sprint Cup race the next day at Watkins Glen. It was announced Thursday Stewart won't race this weekend at Michigan, effectively ending his chances of qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
In the wake of Ward Jr.'s death, NASCAR instituted new rules designed to help prevent similar incidents in the future.
Ward Jr. was 20. His funeral was held Thursday.
- Ben Estes (the Associated Press contributed to this story)