The family of Kevin Ward Jr., the 20-year old sprint car driver who was tragically killed after being struck by a car Tony Stewart was driving, has issued a statement after Stewart was cleared of any wrongdoing in the case. Ward was found to have enough marijuana in his system at the time of the accident to impair his judgement, prosecutors said last week.
Wendi Ward, Kevin’s Aunt, wrote a letter to USA Today criticizing prosecutors for not performing a toxicology report on Stewart or impounding his car following the race. The statement also noted how marijuana can stay in a person’s system for weeks after using, meaning Ward may not have been entirely under the influence at the time of the accident like the courts believe.
An August 9 statement released by the Ward family said “the focus should be on Mr. Stewart and not my son. This matter is not at rest and we will pursue all remedies in fairness to Kevin.” Now that criminal charges for Stewart have been brushed off the table, those words could be taken as a forewarning that the family intends to pursue a wrongful-death civil lawsuit against Stewart.
It’s not entirely clear how Ward’s family and lawyers intend to pursue the case. In the video of the incident, a visibly angry Ward can be seen getting from his car and approaching Stewart’s, which was still travelling about 40 mph under caution. It may be hard to make a case when Ward can clearly be seen putting himself in harm’s way, especially after NASCAR and other sanctioning bodies put rules in place banning drivers from exiting their car on the track following the incident.
The August 9 statement also accused Stewart of intentionally accelerating towards Ward in an effort to intimidate him when he saw him angrily approaching his car. This will also be hard to prove in a civil case, as the grand jury did not find enough evidence to support such a claim in the criminal case.
Whether Ward’s family files a civil suit or not, Stewart will argue for his innocence. The 43-year old NASCAR veteran told the Associated Press: “I know 100 percent in my heart and in my mind that I did not do anything wrong. This was 100 percent an accident.”