Tony Stewart could face criminal charges following the incident that killed Kevin Ward Jr. during last weekend’s Empire Super Sprint series race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York. Ward Jr. died after being struck by Stewart’s sprint car.
According to Ontario Country Sheriff Philip Povero, initial findings at the track have turned up nothing that would indicate criminal intent on Stewart’s part. However, legal experts agree that Stewart could be charged with second-degree manslaughter under New York law if prosecutors believe he caused the death of Ward Jr. by racing to close the driver, Boston Globe reports.
While the three-time NASCAR champion can’t be charged for the car collision that sent Ward spinning into the wall before running him down, Stewart could be found guilty of manslaughter if the police concludes he saw Ward Jr. on the track and still tried to accelerate past him so closely.
Steward has fully cooperated with the police, Povero said, adding that once the investigation is completed the evidence will be turned over to the district attorney. The Sheriff declined to say how Stewart described the accident.
Click past the jump to learn more about the crash that killed Kevin Ward Jr.
Why It Matters
Granted, the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office has a difficult case on its hands. The fact that sprint cars have no data recorders like most race car make it that much more difficult to establish whether Stewart didn’t see Ward Jr. on the track or noticed his presence but tried to intimidate him by accelerating past him. Ward Jr. is not the first driver to venture into racing traffic, but incidents in which racers are struck by oncoming cars are scarce. Whatever the prosecutors decide, the rules of the sport must change so that drivers will be discouraged from losing their temper on the track. Whatever the case, this incident has damaged Stewart’s image and racing career. He might not quit NASCAR, but he may give up on sprint car racing.
Stewart and Ward Jr. got into an on-track collision that resulted in Ward’s car spinning twice and hitting the wall. While Steward continued to lap the course, Ward unbuckled himself and walked onto the track to give the NASCAR driver a piece of his mind. Ward, who was wearing a black suit and helmet on a dimly lit dirt track, was nearly hit by another passing car as he yelled and gestured in Stewart’s direction. As he confronted Tony Stewart, the No. 14 car fishtailed, struck him and sent him flying before landing on his back. Ward Jr. was immediately taken to Thompson Hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival.