Kevin Ward’s autopsy has been concluded and his official cause of death has been released: The 20-year-old Ward died of massive blunt trauma resulting from being struck by a car driven by NASCAR champ Tony Stewart.
The investigation into the incident, headed by Ontario County sheriff Philip Povero, thus far has not resulted in any criminal charges. That said, Povero stressed Monday that the investigation remains open, and that police are analyzing two spectator-filmed videos.
“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,” the sheriff said. “This is an open investigation. What I have just said is not indicative that the investigation is over or conclusions have been made, but that we are continuing to gather all information.”
Ward’s family, specifically his aunt, lashed out against Stewart on social media, calling the 43-year-old veteran driver a d**k.
According to CBS News, “Stewart dropped out of Sunday’s NASCAR race at Watkins Glen, hours after Saturday’s crash. There’s no word yet on whether he will drive in this weekend’s NASCAR race in Michigan. A spokesman said Stewart ‘will have as much time as he needs to make that decision,’ adding that it’s ‘still an emotional time for all involved, Tony included.’”
Ward Jr., 20, was killed Saturday night by Tony Stewart while participating in a sprint car race in Canandaigua, New York. Upset by being wrecked by Stewart, Ward exited his spun-out vehicle while the race was under a caution flag, walked down toward the center of the track, and waited for Stewart to come around, gesturing at the veteran driver.
Stewart’s car appeared to fishtail while passing Ward, striking him and sucking Ward's body under the car, flinging him against the wall. Ward was pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby hospital.
YouTube video of the crash has been viewed millions of times.
The NY Daily News reported on the “simmering rivalry between hot-headed NASCAR star Tony Stewart and upstate sprint car driver Kevin Ward,” calling it the “spark that led to Ward’s death on the track.”
Fellow sprint-car racer Tyler Graves said Ward and Stewart have had on and off track altercations in the past, and suggested that Stewart intentionally buzzed Ward to send him a message.
“I know Tony could see him,” Graves said. “I know how you can see out of these cars.”
Another driver, 21-year-old Charlie Dorn, said: “Tony Stewart and Kevin have raced against each other and they’ve always had a thing for each other. Kevin always beats him and Tony has crashed into him a few times and I think every time they race, Kevin saw it as an extra challenge.”
Some have speculated that Stewart, known to be an aggressive driver that has been involved in multiple dustups over his career, was trying to send Ward a message by blasting right by him.
The incident has touched off a rage of comments and controversy on social media and news outlet sites among the NASCAR community and others. Some say Stewart clearly was trying to buzz Ward in a warning gone terribly wrong. They say Stewart sped up deliberately after seeing Ward on the track. Others claim that Stewart likely never saw Ward, or if he did, he “throttled up” in order to help spin his vehicle, which has no clutch, out of Ward’s path.
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