The decision whether to charge three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart in the August death of a fellow driver at a sprint car race in upstate New York will be up to a grand jury.
Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo said Tuesday he made the decision to present the case to a grand jury after reviewing evidence collected by sheriff’s investigators. Tantillo could have determined there was not enough evidence to support charges and dropped the case, but instead announced his decision more than a month after Stewart’s car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. at a dirt-track race on Aug. 9.
In a statement, Stewart said he respects the time and effort authorities have spent “investigating this tragic accident.”
“I look forward to this process being completed, and I will continue to provide my full cooperation,” he said.
Stewart-Haas Racing said Stewart will race in Sunday’s NASCAR event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Stewart spent three weeks in seclusion before returning for the final two races of the Sprint Cup season. He did not make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field, and finished 18th in the first Chase race Sunday at Chicagoland.
County Sheriff Philip Povero spent weeks investigating the accident at the small track in Canandaigua, several times saying investigators did not have any evidence to support criminal intent by Stewart. Ward had spun while racing alongside Stewart and then the 20-year-old climbed out of his car and walked down the track, waving his arms in an apparent attempt to confront the 43-year-old NASCAR veteran.
“Upon my review of all of the information contained in the entire investigation,” Tantillo said, “I have made the determination that it would be appropriate to submit the evidence to the grand jury for their determination as to what action should be taken in this matter.”