BOONVILLE, N.Y. (WKTV) -- Close to a thousand people gathered at the Trainor Funeral Home Wednesday to pay their respects to Kevin Ward Jr., the racer struck and killed by Nascar champion Tony Stewart on Saturday.
Family, friends and fans filtered through the funeral home, grief stricken and in disbelief they have to say goodbye.
"Tragedy. It really was. You know when it hasn't dawned on you quite until it really has dawned on you that he's gone. It's still a shock to me," said Ward's lifelong friend, Brandon Scottbasow.
The 20-year-old was killed Saturday night at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park. Stewart pushed his racecar up the wall and then Ward exited his car, as if to confront Stewart. Stewart then struck Ward with his car, killing him.
"Last time I seen Kevin was two days before he died. He had a smile from ear to ear. That's the way I want to remember him," said Scottbasow.
Friends have fond memories of cruising around town with him on Go-Karts and ATV's. Racing was Ward's life.
"Gung-ho, get 'er done. It was definitely a part of him," said Scottbasow.
A passion that pushed him to win 250 events and six championships.
"I knew the kid was going somewhere, he really was going somewhere a lot faster moreso than a lot of people around here. Especially being only 20 years old," said Scottbasow.
Ward's family has been grieving in private, but his community remembers him as a shining spot in the small village. In his obituary, Ward is remembered as an inspiration and Douglas Premo, the superintendent of South Lewis Central School where Ward graduated in 2012, says:
"He was a well-liked student who always had a smile on his face and had an obvious love and passion for racing from his earliest days. Our entire school community was extremely proud of Kevin, is saddened by his loss, and sends our deepest sympathies, thoughts, and prayers to his family, friends and loved ones."
The impact he leaves behind is, "A heavy, strong one. He's in my heart. I know that I can't speak for everyone, but he's in my heart," said Scottbasow.
Ontario county officials expect the investigation to take at least two weeks. So far no evidence has turned up that would indicate criminal intent in the crash. However, Stewart could be charged with second degree manslaughter if prosecutors believe he recklessly caused the death of Ward.
The funeral for Ward will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at the South Lewis Central School. The auditorium seats 700 people and is open to anyone who wishes to pay their respects.
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