Tony Stewart will not face charges in the Aug. 9 accident at a New York race track that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr., Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo announced Wednesday afternoon. Tantillo said a grand jury determined there is no basis for the filing of any criminal charges against Stewart in the Canandaigua Motorsports Park accident.
Approximately two dozen witnesses testified including a number of race car drivers, race track employees and volunteers, two accident reconstruction experts, medical personnel, and a number of police officers. The grand jury also reviewed photographs and videos and then determined that there was no basis to charge Stewart with any crimes and his case was “No-Billed” by the grand jury.
Although Tantillo would not reveal details about the grand jury proceedings, at least twelve of the 23 grand jury members would have had to recommend charges for Stewart to have been charged.
“This has been the toughest and most emotional experience of my life, and it will stay with me forever,” Stewart said in a statement sent to media members following the announcement. “I’m very grateful for all the support I’ve received and continue to receive.
“I respect everything the District Attorney and Sheriff’s Office did to thoroughly investigate this tragic accident. While the process was long and emotionally difficult, it allowed for all the facts of the accident to be identified and known.
“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.”
Stewart missed three races after the accident. Since he returned to the track he has not spoken to the media, except for a short statement at Atlanta Motor Speedway the weekend he returned to racing.
Brett Jewkes, NASCAR Chief Communications Officer, said in a written statement that there are no winners in tragedy. “Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Kevin Ward Jr. family and Tony Stewart as they all cope with this tragic incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. This has been a difficult time for everyone involved and we have respected the local authorities responsible for reviewing this case.”
The weight of the tragedy and the uncertainty of the investigation has weighed heavily on the entire Stewart-Haas organization as the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads into its final races.
Two of the Stewart-Haas Racing cars are in the championship running with eight races left in the season. Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick are among the 16 drivers who have an opportunity to be crowned NASCAR Sprint Cup champion. Danica Patrick is the fourth SHR driver.
After Sunday’s race at Dover, four drivers will be eliminated and 12 drivers remain for the next championship round. A disappointing 36th-place finish at New Hampshire last weekend dropped Busch to 15th in the point standings and in a battle for survival as the series heads to Dover.