Local drivers, trainer respond to Tony Stewart crash

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Many are asking if a crash like Tony Stewart's could have been prevented - and wondering about the training drivers get on their emotions on the track.

A fan recorded Stewart striking 20-year-old Kevin Ward, Jr. after Ward got out of his car during a race at a New York motorsports park.

"One of the biggest things in this sport is mentally handling whatever situation you are put in," said up-and-coming driver 22-year-old Michai Stephens. "It's really unfortunate to see that."

In his own crash, Stephens gave a thumbs-up he was okay after the wreckage locked him behind the wheel.

PHOTO: Michai Stephens, 22, recommends drivers always stay in their car after a crash, as he did here after one of his own crashes

"Stay in your car. Stay with your car," said Joe Janowski, a race car driver and trainer. "The minute you walk onto a race track, it's a risky situation."

Janowski trains young drivers like Stephens not only on simulators, but also on keeping their emotions in-check after a crash.

"If a guy pulls a bad move on you, you need to make sure he understands that according to you, that wasn't acceptable," explained Janowski. "That's what Kevin was doing - 'Hey man, not acceptable. Coming at you.' He got too close to the race car."

PHOTO: Kevin Ward, Jr., 20, got out of his car during Saturday's race

Stewart released a statement Sunday saying, in part, "There aren't words to describe the sadness I feel... My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this tragedy."

It's a tragedy that Stephens hopes the racing world will learn from as they grieve one of their own.

"Emotions run deep in this sport and they lead you to some successes and unfortunately some downfalls."

In addition to training drivers to stay with their cars after a crash, Janowski also warns drivers about limited visibility from the drivers seat due to safety gear added over the years to race cars.