Mourners remember Kevin Ward Jr.


by Kevin Oklobzija


Posted on August 14, 2014 at 4:45 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 14 at 5:52 PM

TURIN, N.Y. (USA Today) -- As family, friends and the racing community said goodbye to Kevin Ward Jr., they clutched tightly the memories of their "favorite race-car driver."

He was remembered for his "goofy" smile, his insatiable love for speed, and the lookin'-for-a-good-time demeanor with which he lived his life.

"Our family couldn't have been blessed by a happier person," his cousin, Amanda Ward, told the overflow crowd in the auditorium of South Lewis Central School at the funeral Thursday morning.

Kevin Ward Jr., 20, was killed Saturday night during a sprint car dirt track race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park when he exited his car after a crash and was struck and killed when the car NASCAR star Tony Stewart was driving clipped him. Ontario County Sheriff Phil Povero said Tuesday the investigation would continue at least another two weeks.

Mourners, many wearing orange shirts, dresses or ties, filled the auditorium past its 550 capacity. Folding chairs were placed in the aisles and an overflow area was set up so the service could be watched on TV in the gymnasium.

Dozens of floral arrangements hung along the stage of the auditorium. Above the open casket was a white 13 surrounded by orange flowers. Ward Jr. drove car No. 13.

His father wore a Ward Racing shirt with a bright orange #13 on the right sleeve.

Ward was born in Rome and spent his entire life in Port Leyden, a tiny community of maybe 700 at the southern foothills of New York's Adirondack Region. His exploits in dirt track racing made him well known in town.

One fan wore a Kevin Ward Jr. T-shirt with the driver's autograph prominent just below the front collar. Others wore bright orange T-shirts that read "In loving memory of … WARD 13 RACING."

Family and friends wore orange and white ribbons, the colors that were prominent on Ward's car.

"Even against black, orange and white shine through," his sister, Kayla Herring, said.

Herring said the past five days have been "rough" for the family but "we will get through together."

Ward's three sisters, Christi Cavanaugh, Katelyn Ward and Herring, spoke together from the podium about Kevin, the youngest child of Pamela and Kevin Ward Sr.

On Thursday Tony Stewart said he would not race Sunday in the NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Michigan.