Still no timetable for completion in Stewart-Ward investigation

While Tony Stewart has returned to action in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the investigation into the death of Kevin Ward Jr. is ongoing.

Chris Graythen

Tuesday will mark one month since the death of Kevin Ward Jr. in a sprint car race in New York state, but a spokesperson for the Ontario County (N.Y.) Police Department told Monday that there is still no timetable for when the investigation into Ward’s death will be completed.

Ward, 20, died Aug. 9 after apparently being struck by Tony Stewart’s sprint car at a Empire Super Sprints Series race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in Upstate New York. Ward was racing Stewart when he crashed into an outside wall.

Ward got out of his car and onto the track, gesturing at Stewart as he came around under caution.  Stewart’s right-rear tire appeared to strike Ward, who died en route to the hospital. The Ontario County coroner ruled that the cause of death was blunt-force trauma.

The investigation will determine whether Stewart will be exonerated in Ward’s death or whether he will face charges.

In a press conference the day after the crash, Ontario County Sheriff Phillip C. Povero said, "At this moment there are no facts or evidence that would support a criminal charge or criminal intent." Povero reiterated that statement in another news conference the following day.

But on Aug. 12, Povero read a statement that seemed to back away from his earlier comments. "The investigation into the death of Kevin Ward, Jr., of Lewis County, N.Y., is ongoing and is expected to continue for at least another two weeks or more," Povero said. "Investigators continue to seek witnesses, gather evidence, and develop the racetrack crash reconstruction.  However, it would be inappropriate to discuss details or findings of the investigation with the media at this time."

Smoke out: Stewart to call it a career

Stewart missed three Sprint Cup races, returning at Atlanta Motor Speedway Aug. 29. There, Stewart read from a prepared statement, saying, in part, "This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one ever has to experience in their life. With that being said, I know that the pain and the mourning that Kevin Ward’s family and friends are experiencing is something that I can’t possibly imagine." He has not spoken publicly since.

On the same day Stewart returned, the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office issued another statement saying the investigation into the crash would "continue for at least another two weeks."

Stewart was met with huge ovations during driver introductions at both Atlanta and Richmond.

"It was a huge shot in the arm for him," said Stewart’s long-time friend and Stewart-Haas Racing Competition Director Greg Zipadelli. "Just the people, the officials, his competitors and the fans, and how everybody was pulling for him and was happy to see him back. I think that was a huge plus."

In his two races back, Stewart finished 41st at Atlanta and 15th at Richmond. For the second year in a row and only the third time in his career, Stewart failed to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.