As the world digested the news that Tony Stewart would not be criminally charged in the incident involving the death of fellow racer Kevin Ward, Jr., the balance of public opinion seemed to shift in the NASCAR star's favor. Ward's family is questioning that now in a heartfelt open letter, and a whole lot more.
The lack of criminal charges doesn't exactly close the book on what responsibility Stewart may have for the death. That part is likely to be decided in an inevitable civil lawsuit.
But a grand jury took note of several factors in deciding not to charge Stewart, not least of which were Ward's own actions preceding his own loss of life that night. Specifically, the fact that he approached Stewart's sprint car, with unknown intent, and that he had marijuana in his bloodstream when he was killed, which was "enough to impair his judgement," in the words of the Ontario County District Attorney.
That's the sort of thing for a court to suss out, but in the meantime, Ward's family is still reeling from the loss. Stewart, for his part, said that he, too, is grieving, and doesn't blame the Ward family for anything they say.
Well the Ward family is talking now. In an open letter dictated to USA Today, Ward's aunt, Wendi, questioned the relevancy of the toxicology report, its efficacy, Stewart's positioning on track, and a whole host of other factors, eventually questioning the entire investigation itself:
Why was the toxicology report even an issue? Seems to me the wrong man was on trial. Tell me why Tony Stewart was not taken in for testing, why his car wasn't impounded. Tell me how a man the size of Kevin can make a sprint car turn to the right on impact. Tell me how a lap before (the incident) everything was fine, but the following lap was poor lighting. Tell me how a NASCAR star totally forgot what caution means.
Wendi Ward said she and the rest of her family do not believe the young driver was "under the influence or impaired" at the time, and they say he had spent the previous 10 hours of the day with his family members.
And more than that, it also says a little bit about Ward himself, and who he was as a person. Not matter what you believe about what happened on the night of August 9th, it's a part of the story that's been sorely lacking.
And to end this, I've heard time and time again, "We just want Kevin's story out there." Here you go. Kevin Ward Jr. was an amazing person. His life was wrapped around family, friends and racing, which he started at age 4. Just a small-town boy having fun until the days turned into years, and it then became his passion and life. The trophies, plaques and pictures that fill his home, garage and workshop show his hard work and dedication to racing – his love for the sport.
Through it all, he had the support of his family and friends behind him. He opened his life to our community. As you would go by the shop where he and his dad worked on the car for the upcoming race or after a race, the doors would be wide open and there would always be people in and out wishing him luck, sharing a story, offering a hand or simply just standing there in their own way saying, "We're here for you, bud."
Go read the full letter. It's worth it.
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