'Grieving' Stewart's fate hangs on driver death probe

Mon Aug 11, 2014 6:38pm EDT
 
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By Matthew Liptak

CANANDAIGUA N.Y. (Reuters) - Investigators have yet to find any evidence of criminal behavior by NASCAR veteran Tony Stewart in the death of a young dirt-track racer, after authorities concluded reconstruction of the crash at the track, an official said on Monday.

Stewart, a mercurial three-time NASCAR champion and one of the sport's biggest names, struck and killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward, Jr. after he walked onto the track and apparently lashed out at Stewart after he caused his car to spin out during a race Saturday in upstate New York.

The 43-year-old driver was "grieving," his publicist said, and had not decided whether he will return to competition after dropping out of a NASCAR race on Sunday.

The crash, recorded on video that went viral online, raised questions about safety and lighting at the track, whether Stewart could have avoided Ward and whether the aggressive, often brazen, behavior that is part of the sport of racing was to blame.

An autopsy on Monday revealed that Ward, a sprint-car driver, died of "massive blunt trauma," but gave no other details, Ontario County Sheriff Phil Povero said.

After completing the crash reconstruction at the 61-year-old Canandaigua Motorsports Park in the small New York town, Povero said the investigation was still open.

"At this time, there are no facts that exist that support any criminal behavior or conduct or any probable cause of a criminal act in this investigation," Povero said at a news conference, adding that there was no timeline to conclude.

Ward, whose website said he began racing go karts at age 4, was spun into an outside wall after bumping cars with Stewart, a temperamental driver who has had several off-the-track scuffles with other drivers.   Continued...

 
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart speaks with crew members during practice for the Daytona 500 qualifying at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, in this file photo taken February 16, 2013.  REUTERS/Brian Blanco/Files