Grand jury to investigate Tony Stewart in sprint car racer's death

A New York Grand Jury will investigate whether charges should be brought against NASCAR driver Tony Stewart in the death of Kevin Ward during a sprint car race.

A grand jury will decide whether NASCAR driver Tony Stewart will be charged in the August death of a fellow driver at a sprint car race in upstate New York.

Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo said Tuesday that after reviewing evidence collected by sheriff's investigators, he has decided to present it to a grand jury. Tantillo could have determined there was not enough evidence to support charges and dropped the case.

Stewart's car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. at a dirt-track race in Canandaigua on Aug. 9. The 20-year-old had climbed from his car after it had spun while racing alongside Stewart.

Stewart issued a statement saying he looks forward to the process being completed and will continue to cooperate.

As reported in The Christian Science Monitor last month:

On Aug. 29, Stewart, whose racing passion and occasional temper has pushed him to become one of the sport’s best and fastest drivers, struggled with his emotions as he read a hand-written statement upon returning to the NASCAR circuit.

 “I've taken the last couple of weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way,” Stewart said. “It's given me time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted. … [B]eing back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.”

Debate about whether Stewart could have done more to avoid Ward has become emblematic of some of NASCAR’s rowdy Southern roots, the result of aberrant passions unloosened by the roar of engines – what sports radio host Colin Cowherd called an “eye-for-an-eye” Southern culture.

So far, police in New York have found no evidence of criminal intent, even though some analysts have said it appeared that Stewart could have done more to avoid Ward, who was yelling and pointing his finger at Stewart’s car.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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