Tony Stewart fatal dirt-track incident to be heard by grand jury

Tue Sep 16, 2014 5:35pm EDT
 
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By Steve Ginsburg

(Reuters) - The case of a fatal dirt-track incident involving three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart in upstate New York last month will be referred to a grand jury, authorities said on Tuesday.

Stewart, one of the biggest names in auto racing, struck and killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward during a non-NASCAR sprint car race on Aug. 9 at Canandaigua Motorsports Park.

"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," said Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo.

Stewart skipped the next three NASCAR races following the incident on a dimly lit track about an hour's drive west of Syracuse. He returned to NASCAR on Aug. 31 to a standing ovation at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"I look forward to this process being completed, and I will continue to provide my full cooperation," the 43-year-old Stewart, one of NASCAR's most popular and temperamental drivers, said in a statement.

Stewart and Ward bumped cars during the race and the collision sent Ward into an outside retaining wall. During the ensuing caution period, Ward jumped out of his car in an apparent attempt to confront Stewart, who remained in the race.

When Stewart came around on the next lap, Ward, while in the middle of the track, pointed at Stewart. As Stewart approached Ward, his car appeared to swerve, striking Ward and throwing him some 50 feet (15 meters).

Ward was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead.   Continued...

 
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart during a press conference at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports