Tony Stewart has been cleared of all criminal fault in the tragic on-track death of a fellow sprint car driver. A grand jury spent the week investigating Stewart’s part in the death.
On Wednesday morning Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo called a 3 p.m. press conference. Tantillo reported that the grand jury had completed its work.
The investigation began after Kevin Ward Jr. was killed at a sprint-car track near Canandaigua on August 9. During the race Tony Stewart’s car drifted into the young drivers wheel, causing him to spin out of control. As Stewart continued to drive around the track under caution, the young driver exised the vehicle and attempted to walk across the track. As Ward Jr., frantically gestured at Tony Stewart, he was run over.
Video of the incident shows Stewarts car wobbling as he attempted to pass by Kevin Ward. A part of Stewart’s car hit the young driver, causing him to smash hard onto the dirt track.
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After a short investigation police decided not to press charges against Tony Stewart. Instead, the District Attorney’s office performed a secretive grand jury investigation into the incident. According to reports, investigators were able to obtain “enhanced” footage of the tragic accident.
The question at the heart of the investigation was whether or not Stewart meant to cause injury to Kevin Ward Jr. when he smashed into his vehicle and then into his body. Race conditions on the dirty track were slick, and even for an experienced Sprint-car driver like Stewart, it would have been more difficult than normal to fully control his vehicle.
Stewart skipped several races after the incident so he could be fully available for federal investigators. He also liked needed time to clear his head, noting that the tragic accident would “stick with [him]‘ for the rest of his life.
While he may dodge criminal charges, Stewart could still face a civil lawsuit from the family of Kevin Ward Jr.
NASCAR was not associated with the race that claimed the young drivers life. However, the association decided to create a new rule that now requires drivers to remain in their vehicles until safety workers arrive on the scene of the crash. Drivers are still allowed to exist their race cars if their vehicles are smoking or on fire.
Full details of the grand jury’s decision will be released shortly.