Three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart will not be charged with the death of a fellow driver at a sprint car race in upstate New York, prosecutors said Wednesday in disclosing for the first time that the victim had enough marijuana in his system the night he died to impair his judgment.
Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo said a grand jury decided against charging Stewart with either second-degree manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide in the Aug. 9 death of Kevin Ward Jr., who was struck and killed as he walked down the track in an apparent attempt to confront the NASCAR veteran after their cars got tangled up one lap earlier.
"There is toxicology evidence in the case relating to Kevin Ward that indicates that at the time of operation he was under the influence of marijuana," Tantillo said. "The levels determined were enough to impair judgment."
Tantillo also said two videos - one from a fan, the other from the tiny track in this New York hamlet - had been examined and enhanced. Both showed Stewart did not do anything wrong and that there was no "aberrational driving."
"This has been the toughest and most emotional experience of my life, and it will stay with me forever," Stewart said in a prepared statement. "While much of the attention has been on me, it's important to remember a young man lost his life. Kevin Ward Jr.'s family and friends will always be in my thoughts and prayers."
NASCAR spokesman Brett Jewkes said there were "no winners" in the accident and expressed support for Ward's family and Stewart.
Jewkes is correct - there were "no winners" in this incident. Although deeply saddened by the Ward Family's loss, NASCAR Race Mom is very relieved that Stewart will not face criminal charges.Current Chase leader and 2012 NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski tweeted after the marijuana disclosure: "Can't believe what I'm reading about Tony Stewart's case. Why didn't they release this sooner?!?!"