By Jim Hagerty
There will be no criminal charges filed against NASCAR driver Tony Stewart in the death of Kevin Ward Jr., court officials announced Wednesday, Sept. 24.
The investigation was sent to a grand jury two weeks after Ward was killed while racing against Stewart in Canandaigua, New York, Aug. 9.
Ward, 20, died of massive trauma suffered when he approached Stewart’s sprint car as it passed him. Ward exited his car after Stewart drove him high into a wall on a turn causing him to crash.
Ward then ran toward Stewart, apparently to confront him. That’s when he became ensnared in Stewart’s car.
A video of the incident went viral, raising questions whether the three-time NASCAR champ hit Ward on purpose or was trying to buzz him but got too close.
“After listening to and questioning all the witnesses and reviewing all of the evidence, the grand jury has decided that there is no evidence to charge Tony Stewart with any crimes.” Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo told media after the ruling.
The grand jury heard testimony of more than two dozen witnesses, CNN reported. It was also announced Wednesday that toxicology reports confirmed that Ward was the under the influence of marijuana the night of the race. Stewart was also administered a drug test by an expert that night, and was found not to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“There are no winners in tragedy,” NASCAR spokesman Brett Jewkes said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Kevin Ward Jr. family and Tony Stewart as they all cope with this tragic incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. This has been a difficult time for everyone involved and we have respected the local authorities responsible for reviewing this case.”