The grand jury announced Wednesday that there was no evidence of a criminal act. The case was passed on to the grand jury by Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo last week. The Ontario County Sheriff’s Department investigated the August 9 incident for approximately a month before the evidence had been presented to Tantillo.
By New York state law, any case that possibly involves felony charges must go to a grand jury for a possible indictment. Tuesday, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that the grand jury was hearing testimony in the case. The grand jury had three options: felony charges, misdemeanor charges or no charges. It chose the third option.
Stewart, a three-time Sprint Cup Series champion and Ward, 20, were racing together at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in a sprint car race when Ward hit the wall. After his car came to a stop, Ward got out and walked down the track to confront Stewart. The right-rear tire of Stewart’s car hit Ward, propelling him down the track. He was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital. Ward was ruled to have died due to blunt force trauma.
The lack of criminal charges in the case does not rule out the possibility of a civil suit, such as a wrongful death lawsuit against Stewart.
A week after the incident, NASCAR said that drivers would be banned from exiting their cars following an accident barring dangerous circumstances (like a fire) until safety personnel arrive.
Stewart missed three races after the incident and returned to the Sprint Cup Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Labor Day weekend. There, he offered a brief and emotional statement and he couldn’t take questions about the incident because of the investigation but that there would be a day in the future when he could.
The same weekend, NASCAR announced that it would give Stewart a waiver to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup despite his three-race absence. To use the waiver, however, Stewart would have had to win at Atlanta or Richmond. He did neither and missed the Chase. With eight races left in the Sprint Cup Series season, Stewart has not won a race. If he finishes the season without a win, it’d be the first winless season of his career.
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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter!