>>Stewart Cleared By Grand Jury in Ward Jr.'s Death
NASCAR driver Tony Stewart will not face charges for his role in the death of Kevin Ward Jr. during an accident in the Aug. 9 sprint car race at a dirt track in Upstate New York.
A grand jury in Ontario County, New York began its deliberation on Tuesday and then revealed its findings on the following day. The Ontario County District Attorney's Office announced on Sept. 16 that a grand jury would determine if charges should be filed against Stewart for his involvement in the fatal accident.
Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo said during a press conference on Wednesday that approximately two dozen people testified before the grand jury. These included a number of race car drivers, racetrack employees and volunteers, two accident reconstructionists, medical personnel and a number of police officers.
Tantillo noted the grand jury reviewed a number of photographs and video recordings as well as other documentary evidence.
Tantillo also said a toxicology report indicated that Ward was under the influence of marijuana at the time he was competing in the race. There was no toxicology work performed on Stewart.
Stewart, a three-time champion in NASCAR's premier series, struck and killed 20-year-old Ward at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. The incident occurred during a caution when Ward climbed out of his car and then walked down the dirt track, pointing his finger in the direction of Stewart and apparently yelling at him to express his displeasure. The right rear of Stewart's car hit Ward and dragged him briefly across the track.
The caution came when Stewart and Ward made contact while battling for position, with Ward spinning out and hitting the wall.
Ward died from massive blunt trauma.
Following the announcement of the grand jury's decision, Stewart released a statement, saying, "This has been the toughest and most emotional experience of my life, and it will stay with me forever. 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."
NASCAR also issued a statement on the decision.
"There are no winners in tragedy," NASCAR chief communications officer Brett Jewkes said in the statement. "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."
Stewart missed three Sprint Cup Series races -- Watkins Glen, Michigan and Bristol -- while he was in seclusion following the incident at Canandaigua. He returned to competition the last weekend in August at Atlanta. Stewart did not qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. The series will be at Dover this weekend for the third race in the Chase.
>>NASCAR Reveals New Rules Package For 2015 Sprint Cup Season
NASCAR announced on Tuesday major changes to the rules package for Sprint Cup Series teams in 2015, including a ban on private team testing and reduction of horsepower.
NASCAR is eliminating team-facilitated private testing for next year; however, teams will be invited to participate in NASCAR/Goodyear tire tests. The sanctioning body also noted that January testing at Daytona International Speedway prior to the Daytona 500 -- known as "Preseason Thunder" -- will not take place next year.
Among the biggest rule modifications for the Sprint Cup race package next season is reduction of horsepower from 850 to 725 through a tapered spacer, an engine part used in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series.
NASCAR also announced that group qualifying will be used for the first time in determining the front row for the Daytona 500. The group qualifying format was introduced to all three of its national series at the start of this season, but qualifying (time trials) for the Daytona 500 had included the traditional format of single-car runs. The remainder of the starting lineup for that race was decided by the twin-qualifying events. The twin-qualifiers at Daytona will remain.