A grand jury has decided not to bring criminal charges against NASCAR star Tony Stewart in the death of a fellow driver during a sprint car race in August in upstate New York. On Wednesday, the Ontario County District Attorney’s office said that the victim, Kevin Ward Jr., was under the influence of marijuana and that his judgment was impaired during the tragic race at Canandaigua Motor Sports Park on Aug. 9.
"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," D.A. Michael Tantillo said in a statement.
Two charges were submitted to the grand jury: manslaughter in the second degree and criminally negligent homicide. Neither charge received the necessary 12 votes for Stewart to be charged.
During the dirt-track race Stewart sent Ward’s car into the wall near Turn 1. Ward’s car was wrecked, and he jumped out of his vehicle and walked to the middle of the track with several cars zooming past him. Based on video of the incident, Ward appeared to be pointing at Stewart’s car as he came back around, apparently trying to confront the three-time NASCAR champion. Stewart's car fishtailed and clipped Ward, dragging him underneath and then sending him flying roughly 25 feet.
Ward lay motionless on the track and was later taken to an area hospital where he was pronounced dead. The Ontario Country Sheriff’s Dept. later said Ward’s cause of death was blunt force trauma.
Following the incident, there were many questions about whether Stewart did all he could to avoid Ward, or if he intentionally hit the 20-year-old. The grand jury viewed two videos of the accident, and Tantillo said the footage showed there was “no aberrational driving by Tony Stewart.”
Saying he was shaken up afterwards, Stewart voluntarily sat out the next two Sprint Cup series races and returned to the racing circuit for the Oral-B USA 500 race in Atlanta on Aug. 31.