Orange could be seen amid the traditional black worn by the hundreds of mourners who gathered at this afternoon’s funeral for racecar driver Kevin Ward Jr. The 20-year-old, whose family prides orange as their team color, was remembered in Turin, N.Y., today, two-and-a-half hours away from where Ward was struck and killed Saturday during a dirt-track race.
“Even against black, orange and white shine through,” Ward’s sister Kayla Herring said in front of the crowd that overflowed the 550-person capacity high school where the service was held (via USA Today).
Ward’s father, who recently questioned the actions behind the accident that killed his son, wore a “Ward Racing” shirt with an orange “#13” on the right sleeve, USA Today writes. Other fans wore orange ribbons and accents. The bright color also graced the floral arrangements and several of the hundreds of balloons that were let go on the count of 13, Ward’s number, according to reports.
Ward “was an amazing sprint car driver and had a family like no other,” Amanda Ward, Ward’s cousin, said in a eulogy (via the Associated Press). “We used to tell him before every race, ‘Drive it like you stole it.’ He never let us down.”
“Even if he had rough day, he always had a smile,” Dylan Swiernick, Ward’s friend, said (via the AP). “We were just two small-town boys trying to make it in the big world. He was always working on something. It was unbelievable how smart he was. He never got down on himself when things weren’t going his way.”
After the service, Ward was buried in his home town of Port Leyden, N.Y.
Meanwhile, Ontario Country police are still investigating the accident in Canandaigua, N.Y., that killed Ward. Fellow driver Tony Stewart hit the young racer, who had exited his vehicle after a previous incident. The impact sent Ward flying roughly 50 yards on the track in front of a horrified audience. Stewart expressed his sorrow and pulled out of a NASCAR race the next day.
Many, including Ward’s father, however, have questioned the actions of Stewart at Saturday’s event, noting he did not heed enough caution while Ward was out of his vehicle. Stewart’s racing teammate Kevin Harvick came to his friend’s defense Wednesday, saying Stewart would never have run over someone intentionally.
“Tony Stewart is a great person,” Harvick said (via Sports Illustrated). “I know in my heart he would never do anything like that on purpose. We just have to let it all play out. I do know that Tony is a great friend of mine, I’ve known him a long time, and he probably has the biggest heart of anybody in that garage.” No criminal charges have been filed.