ONTARIO COUNTY - The fate of NASCAR driver Tony Stewart could soon be in the hands of a jury. The jury could decide whether he'll face criminal charges for hitting and killing Kevin Ward during a race last month, despite investigators announcing last month they were not going to charge him with a crime.
Tony Stewart and Kevin Ward were participating in a race on a dirt track at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in Canandaigua, New York. A video shows when Ward got out of his car and started waving his arms, possibly in pursuit of Stewart who repeatedly bumped into Ward's car during the race. On another lap around the track, Stewart struck and killed Ward.
Ontario County's district attorney in New York announced Tuesday he was going to be taking evidence from the incident to a grand jury to see if the evidence supports criminal charges against Stewart.
"I think there is a lot of pressure on people up there in that County to see that the right thing is done," said former Charlotte Motor Speedway General Manager Humpy Wheeler.
Wheeler believes Stewart's celebrity is fueling a second look since the announcement comes more than a month after the incident and after a investigation with the Ontario County Sheriff's Office.
So far, no charges have been filed and that's why Stewart continues to race. He took three weeks off after the crash before returning for the final two races of the Sprint Cup season. He's expected to race this weekend in New Hampshire. His friends believe that's the best thing for him.
"He's going through the dickens since the whole thing happened and now his fate is in the hands of a jury. That's a pretty tough deal," said Wheeler.
Stewart released this statement that reads:
"I respect the time and effort spent by both the Ontario County District Attorney and the Sheriff's Office in investigating this tragic accident. I look forward to this process being completed, and I will continue to provide my full cooperation."
We don't know when the grand jury will meet because it is confidential.
NASCAR said it will monitor what happens through the legal process, but would not comment further on this latest development.
NASCAR released a statement Tuesday afternoon regarding Tantillo's announcement:
"We are aware of the completed investigation and the announced next steps. First, our thoughts continue to be with all who have been impacted by this tragedy. We will monitor this process and stay in close contact with Stewart-Haas Racing. It would be inappropriate for NASCAR to comment on this case so we will continue to respect the process and authorities involved."
Aug. 9: Tony Stewart strikes Kevin Ward Jr. with his car during a sprint car race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park killing him.
Aug. 10: Ontario County Sheriff confirms Ward's death and says a full investigation is underway.
Aug. 11: Sheriff Philip Povero confirms that Ward died of massive blunt force trauma, citing an autopsy report.
Aug. 13: Visitation was held for Ward Jr. in Boonville, N.Y.
Aug. 15: NASCAR announces new rules and guidelines instructing drivers to stay in their cars after a crash unless their safety is on the line.
Aug. 28: Stewart-Haas Racing announces Tony Stewart will return to racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Aug. 29: Stewart speaks publicly for first time following the crash. "This is something that will definitely affect my life forever," Stewart said.
Sept. 11: Ontario County Sheriff's Office announces its investigation into Ward's death is complete.
Sept. 16: Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo said in a press release Tuesday that Tony Stewart’s case will be sent to grand jury.
- Stewart returning to competition after fatal crash
- Former speedway owner talks about Tony Stewart situation
- Tony Stewart involved in fatal collision with other driver
- Ward crafted reputation as wheelman before death
- As probe begins, Stewart steps away from the track
- Criminal charge possible for Stewart in Ward death
- Report: Ward's father says 'no reason' for crash