Aug. 12 (Bloomberg) -- An investigation of the death of driver Kevin Ward Jr. after he was struck during a race by three-time Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart may take at least two more weeks, New York authorities said.
Investigators are still seeking witnesses and gathering evidence from the Aug. 9 incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York, as well as developing a reconstruction of the crash, Ontario County Sheriff Philip C. Povero said today in a statement.
Povero declined to give details or findings of the probe, saying his office will conduct a “thorough review of all relevant facts” surrounding the crash and will meet with the Ontario County District Attorney’s Office to discuss all aspects of the investigation.
Stewart is the co-owner of the Stewart-Haas team, which also fields Sprint Cup cars for Danica Patrick, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch. Stewart’s sponsors also include Exxon Mobil Corp., General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet, Coca-Cola Co. and Luxottica Group SpA’s Oakley, according to his website, and his annual earnings are estimated by Forbes at $12.5 million.
Ward, 20, was killed when he was struck by Stewart’s car while he was walking on the track during a race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, a dirt track located in the Finger Lakes region about a 40-minute drive southeast of Rochester.
Stewart’s car bumped Ward’s car into the wall on the previous lap. Video images showed Ward getting out of his car and gesturing at Stewart before he was struck. Povero had earlier said no charges are pending against Stewart, who is cooperating with the investigation.
The incident occurred 14 laps into the 25-lap race, with Ward losing control of his winged sprint car and hitting the track’s outside retaining wall after the contact with Stewart’s car. The race was put into caution, slowing the participating cars. Ward, who was wearing a black helmet and firesuit, unbuckled himself, walked onto the dirt track and gestured at approaching cars, including Stewart’s.
As two cars approached Ward, the first “swerved to avoid the driver out on the track,” according to the sheriff’s department, and the second car, driven by Stewart, struck Ward.
Video showed Ward went under Stewart’s car and was then thrown into the air before landing motionless on his back on the track. Ward was pronounced dead at a local hospital about 45 minutes after the incident, police said. An autopsy showed he died of blunt force trauma.
While Stewart is a team owner and one of the top drivers on Nascar’s top tier, he schedules numerous short track events every year. The Aug. 9 incident came about a year after Stewart broke two bones in his lower right leg when he crashed in a dirt track race in Oskaloosa, Iowa, costing him the second half of the Nascar season.
Stewart was also involved in a 15-car pileup in a short track race on July 2013 in Canandaigua that left a 19-year-old female driver seriously injured.
After the Aug. 9 crash, he pulled out of the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International held Aug. 10 in Watkins Glen, about 100 miles to the south, after the accident.
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