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Local Racing Community Reacts to Deadly Crash Involving Tony Stewart

Updated: Monday, August 11 2014, 10:37 PM CDT
Tonight, the local racing community reacts to the death of a 20-year-old driver who was hit by NASCAR star, Tony Stewart at a race over the weekend.

"It was exciting. The stands were the most packed I had seen them in a long time," said Jacksonville native, Bill Baker.

Then the dirt track race took a turn for the worst.

Kevin Ward Jr.'s car hits the wall after apparently being cutoff by NASCAR driver, Tony Stewart.

"It happens every week. They call it a slide job. He kind of squeezed him up there," said Jeremy Standridge, a local race car driver from Springfield.

But then Ward got out of his car appearing angry. One car is seen swerving to miss him. Then Tony Stewart's car comes back around and appears to hit Ward.

Baker was one of the fans at the race.

"They asked everyone to sit tight so they could get things figured out and then probably within the half hour they asked everybody to leave, at which point they turned the track lights off and we didn't find out until about four hours later exactly what had happened," Baker said.

What happened shook the racing community to its core.

20-year-old Ward was taken to the hospital and pronounced dead.

"I think the whole racing community is just numb to what has happened," Baker said.

Stewart is one of NASCAR's most popular drivers who often races at small tracks.

Even at the small dirt track, which he co-owns, in Macon.

"NASCAR is his job and the sprint car and other stuff is more of a hobby that he does for fun. A lot of racecar drivers do that in that professional level," said Bob Sargent, race promoter at Macon Speedway.

Standridge says sprint cars are very different from the stock cars typically associated with racing.

"The weight to horsepower ratio is huge. So you're producing a lot of horsepower. A lot of speed with no weight," said Standridge.

Like any sport, Standridge says, sometimes tempers flair.

"You see guys getting out, throwing helmets, getting mad all the time."

But very rarely do one of those drivers lose their life.

"Maybe if he would have stayed in the car, none of this would have happened," Standridge said.

Kenny Wallace, who is a co-owner of the track in Macon posted on his Facebook page that getting out of a race car after a wreck, and walking on the race track surface while cars are still going in circles is dangerous.

Many drivers say they actually feels safer in race car because of the safety equipment and fire suit they are required to wear. Local Racing Community Reacts to Deadly Crash Involving Tony Stewart

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