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CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. — The most well-known driver in the winged-sprint car race Tuesday at Canandaigua Motorsports Park almost became the show-stopper.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart was right at the center of a crash that involved 15 cars on Lap 7 of the 25-lap feature race on the half-mile oval dirt track. Stewart, seen later chatting with crew members of other teams, said in an interview over the track's public address system that the accident was his fault.

Alysha Ruggles, a 19-year old driver from Canandaigua, was taken to Thompson Hospital in her hometown because of pain in her lower back caused by the accident. Witnesses said that Ruggles' car hit the wheel of another, went into the air 20 to 30 feet and came to a stop 50 to 60 feet later.

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"It was a melee of stuff going on there," sprint car driver Paul Habeck of Fairport, said. "A lot of dirt flying, cars going every which way, upside down.

"I came into Turn 1 and saw a car flipping towards me. It was pretty crazy. We came through it unscathed. I had to do a lot of weaving to get through it."

Crew members for the car driven by Paul Kinney of Canastota, N.Y., said that they believed Kinney was taken to Rochester General Hospital. Kinney had pain in his back and legs but his exact injuries were unknown.

"I have never seen anything this bad in a sprint car race, I don't think, or this many cars being taken out in one wreck," said sprint car driver Mike Stelter of Webster. "At least Tony Stewart manned up and said he caused the wreck.

"He tried to put the car where it didn't belong. He said it was his fault for trying to force the issue, I guess is a good way to say it."

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Doug Emery of South Onondaga won $3,000 for his first-place finish.

Darryl Ruggles, Alysha Ruggles' father, finished fifth. Macedon N.Y., resident Charlie Donk also made it through the accident and came in seventh, one spot ahead of Habeck.

Blake Breen of Savannah finished ninth and Stelter 10th, a lap down. Scoring placed Stewart 15th of 25 cars.

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Stewart's accident came just over a month after former NASCAR driver Jason Leffler was killed in a crash during a 410 winged-sprint car race at Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey. Leffler was 37.

"Once you are a racer, you've got that bug," said Sportsman division driver Karl Comfort of Dundee. "Like I said, racing is a disease. Once you have it, there's no stopping it.

"A guy like that, who has the funds, he's going to come out and race and he's going to have fun, because racing is fun to a racer. They don't think about getting hurt. Most people don't think about the money until after you crash. And you go out there and give it everything you got."

Stewart is scheduled to return to Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Aug. 10 to race in an Empire Sprints Series race.

James Johnson writes for the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle, a Gannett property.

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