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Local Speedways Focus on Safety

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Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - A tragic event is casting the sport of racing and one of its most recognizable faces in a shadow today.

A warning, the video you're going to see is dramatic; however, we have chosen to edit out the hit itself.

During a sprint car race in upstate New York late last night, NASCAR driver Tony Stewart, who was competing in the dirt track race, spun out a 20-year-old driver.

The driver then jumped out of his car and walked down the track in an attempt to confront Stewart.

The driver, Kevin Ward Jr. was wearing a black helmet and a dark fire suit on the dimly lit track.

When Stewart's car reached the driver, Ward was hit and thrown several feet.

Ward was transported to a hospital and pronounced dead.

Stewart was questioned by the Ontario Sheriff's Office and released. 

The collision remains under investigation.

Stewart, has a history of racing sprint cars, and has even raced in West Fargo.

Area racing fans love the excitement and suspense of the sport.

But as we just saw, it has a dangerous side.

Racing fans in the Red River Valley are no stranger to Tony Stewart's illustrious career.

And racers are certainly aware how dangerous the sport can be.    

When the West Fargo Speedway was still in use, Stewart raced local sprint car drivers a few times.

And he even got nudged off the dirt track in 2011.

Another local speedway, The Buffalo River Race Park, says it takes safety very seriously.

A radio communication system allows officials to warn drivers of potential dangers on the track.

Staff says they commonly see conflicts, like the one between Ward and Stewart last night -- but do everything to diffuse that kind of situation.

Jason Berg/Flagman, Buffalo River Race Park: "I know at Buffalo River Race Park, we have a great set of officials that communicate very well. And we're always available for the drivers before and after the races to discuss any incidents, you know that happen."

Drivers do face disqualification for exiting their cars, but officials say it's often the safest choice after a crash.

Catherine Ross

Catherine joined the WDAY 6 News team as a reporter and photographer in April of 2014 and is honored to bring you stories from around the Red River Valley. She grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis and got her first taste of the news industry during a high school mentorship at Fox 9 in the Twin Cities. Catherine graduated from Emerson College in Boston where she participated in the student-run TV station WEBN and spent a semester in Washington, DC working at Voice of America. Those opportunities gave her a front-row seat to the 2012 Presidential election cycle, reporting at the Iowa Caucuses, Republican National Convention and President Obama’s second inauguration. Now happy to be back closer to family, Catherine enjoys exploring the nature and culture of the upper Midwest. She’s an avid runner, novice foodie and lifelong Twins fan. If you have any story ideas or just want to say hello, Catherine would love to hear from you!

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