Investigation open in Nascar deathInvestigators have yet to find any evidence of criminal behavior by Nascar veteran Tony Stewart in the death of a young dirt-track racer, after authorities concluded a reconstruction of the crash at the track, an official said on Monday.
Stewart, a mercurial three-time Nascar champion and one of the sport’s biggest names, struck and killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr., who had walked onto the track and apparently lashed out at Stewart after he caused his car to spin out during a race Saturday in upstate New York.
The 43-year-old driver was “grieving,” his publicist said, and had not decided whether he would return to the competition after having dropped out of a Nascar race on Sunday.
The crash raised questions about safety and lighting at the track and whether Stewart could have avoided Ward.
An autopsy on Monday revealed that Ward, a sprint car driver, died of “massive blunt trauma,” Ontario County Sheriff Phil Povero said.
After completing the crash reconstruction at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park, Povero said the investigation was still open.
“At this time, there are no facts that exist that support any criminal behavior or conduct or any probable cause of a criminal act in this investigation,” Povero said at a news conference.
Ward was spun into a wall after bumping cars with Stewart, a temperamental racer who has had several off-track scuffles with other drivers.
As the caution flag went out, Ward left his car, apparently in an attempt to confront Stewart. When Ward angrily pointed at Stewart on the next lap, Stewart’s car wobbled slightly, striking Ward.
Stewart’s status for the Michigan 400 on Sunday has not been determined.
“The decision to compete in this weekend’s Nascar Sprint Cup Series event at Michigan will be Tony’s, and he will have as much time as he needs to make that decision,” the driver’s publicist, Mike Arning, said.
“It is still an emotional time for all involved, Tony included. He is grieving, and grief doesn’t have a timetable.”
Plymouth Speedway released a statement on Monday announcing that Stewart would not compete in this Saturday’s dirt-track race in Plymouth, Indiana.