A grand jury has determined that racer Tony Stewart will not face charges in the death of fellow driver Kevin Ward Jr.
Michael Tantillo, Ontario County District Attorney, said in a news conference on Wednesday: “After listening to and questioning all of the witnesses, and reviewing all of the evidence, the grand jury has determined that there is no basis to charge Tony Stewart with any crimes; his case was ‘No-Billed’ by the grand jury.”
Stewart released a statement in response on Wednesday, calling the ordeal the “toughest and most emotional experience of my life.”
The investigation yielded testimony from approximately two dozen witnesses, including a number of racers and track employees. Photos and videotape of the incident were reviewed. Tantillo also said that Ward was under the influence of marijuana during the race, with enough in his system “to impair judgment.”
“There are no winners in tragedy,” NASCAR 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.”
Brett Jewkes, the pro driving league’s chief communications officer, continued: “This has been a difficult time for everyone involved and we have respected the local authorities responsible for reviewing this case.”
Stewart’s car stuck and killed Ward Jr. during a Lucas Oil Super Sprint Feature dirt-track race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in Canandaigua, N.Y. on Aug. 9 when Ward got out of his car and walked across the hot track, appearing to gesture and yell at the oncoming Stewart.
A lap earlier, Stewart’s car had nudged and spun-out Ward’s car.
In announcing the decision to include a grand jury last week, Tantillo said: “Over the past several weeks I have reviewed with members of the Ontario County Sheriff’s Department their investigation, as it progressed, in the Tony Stewart matter. I have made the determination that it would be appropriate to submit the evidence to a grand jury, for their determination as to what action should be taken in this matter.”
Stewart, a three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, promised his full cooperation with the investigation last week. “I respect the time and effort spent by both the Ontario County District Attorney and the Sheriff’s Office in investigating this tragic accident,” he said. “I look forward to this process being completed, and I will continue to provide my full cooperation.”
Stewart, 43, has returned to racing after a self-imposed three-week hiatus.
The collision happened after Ward, who was 20, “lost control mid-race, got out of his car and was standing on the dirt track,” Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said in a statement shortly after the collision.
As Ward stood on the track, two cars approached him. “The first car swerved to avoid the driver out on the track. The second car, operated by Tony Stewart, struck the driver,” the sheriff’s statement continued.