MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – Three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart has been cleared by a grand jury investigating a dirt-track incident in upstate New York in August that killed a young driver, a county prosecutor said on Wednesday.
Stewart, 43, one of the biggest names in auto racing, struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr., 20, during a non-NASCAR sprint-car race on Aug. 9 on a dimly lit part of the Canandaigua Motorsports Park track, about an hour’s drive west of Syracuse.
Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo said authorities submitted possible charges of manslaughter in the second degree and criminally negligent homicide against Stewart, and the grand jury “determined that there is no basis to charge Tony Stewart with any crimes.”
Toxicology tests indicated that Ward was under the influence of marijuana that night, at levels “enough to impair judgment,” Tantillo told a news conference. He said Stewart was not tested, but he was interviewed that night by a certified drug recognition expert, who did not find any impairment.
Stewart said in a statement: “This has been the toughest and most emotional experience of my life, and it will stay with me forever.”
The Ward family said the “matter is not at rest and we will pursue all remedies in fairness to Kevin.”
“All other vehicles were reducing speed and not accelerating except for Tony Stewart, who intentionally tried to intimidate Kevin by accelerating and sliding his car toward him causing this tragedy,” the family said in a statement.