Tony Stewart didn't race in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race after he struck and killed sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr., who had climbed from his car and was on the track trying to confront Stewart during a race in upstate New York on Saturday night.
Greg Zipadelli, the competition director for Stewart-Haas racing, announced the decision Sunday morning. Regan Smith raced in place of Stewart.
Stewart released a statement Sunday afternoon.
"There aren't words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr. It's a very emotional time for all involved, and it is the reason I've decided not to participate in today's race at Watkins Glen. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this tragedy," he said.
Sheriff Philip Povero said Sunday afternoon that there are no charges pending at this time. The District Attorney is continuing to investigate the accident but there is no evidence to support criminal charges or intent at this time, he said.
Ward's family also released a statement Sunday afternoon.
"We appreciate the prayers and support we are receiving from the community, but we need time to grieve and wrap our heads around all of this."
Earlier Sunday, Zipadelli said Stewart, a three-time NASCAR champion, felt strongly he shouldn't race at Watkins Glen following Ward's fatal accident. He said it was Stewart's decision not to race.
"I support Tony Stewart. I think I have shown that over the last 18 years," Zipadelli said.
Before the announcement that Stewart wouldn't race, Zipadelli had said Stewart would drive in Sunday's race, calling it "business as usual." The race is critical for Stewart's championship chances but he decided to sit out the race after taking "some time to sleep on it," Zipadelli said.
"[Stewart] feels strongly this is the right thing to do. We at SHR support it and agree with it. It's a difficult time for both parties. This is what we feel is right and we're supporting Tony in it," Zipadelli said.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and fellow competitors of Kevin Ward Jr.," NASCAR said in a statement Sunday. "We support Tony Stewart's decision to miss today's race and we will continue to respect the process and timeline of the local authorities and will continue to monitor this situation moving forward."
Bass Pro Shops, which is Stewart's primary sponsor, said in a statement that it was "deeply saddened" by the accident.
"We send our thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of sprint car competitor Kevin Ward Jr. and also to Tony Stewart and everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing," it said in the statement.
Stewart was unhurt in Saturday night's accident.
A video of the crash at Canandaigua Motorsports Park showed driver Ward, wearing a black helmet and firesuit on a dimly lit track, walking toward Stewart's car before being hit and hurtled 50 feet. Povero said the the 25-lap race was under caution when Ward was struck. Stewart's car was behind another before he hit Ward.
"The first car swerved to avoid the driver," Povero said.
Ward, 20, was pronounced dead Saturday night at a hospital in Canandaigua.