As the racing world awaits a 3 p.m. press conference in upstate New York where a District Attorney will announce the results of a grand jury investigation into Tony Stewart's fatal crash into driver Kevin Ward Jr., TMZ reports that the grand jury has declined to charge Stewart with any crimes. (UPDATE: Confirmed.)
In a brief post, the gossip website says that the grand jury has returned a "no bill" of Stewart after spending a week looking into the Aug. 9 dirt track crash at Canandaigua Motorsports Park that killed Ward, 20.
Investigators had said they had "enhanced video" of the incident — but clearly the footage did not persuade the grand jury that Stewart did anything illegal.
Bear in mind that this report has not been confirmed yet, and probably won't be until the Ontario County District Attorney announces the grand jury's findings in half an hour.
But if it is correct — and say what you want about TMZ, but they're right more often than not — then it means Stewart won't face a criminal trial after all.
Ward was killed when he was struck by Stewart's car after he exited his own car and walked onto the track under caution. The incident took place moments after Stewart edged Ward out during a corner, sending him spinning into a wall. Video makes it appear as though Ward tried to confront Stewart while the race was still happening.
An autopsy determined that Ward died of blunt trauma.
This post will be updated once the announcement is made.
Update: The grand jury's decision has been confirmed. Ontario County DA Michael Tantillo said the grand jury found "no basis to charge Stewart with a crime."
Tantillo said that more than two dozen witnesses testified before the 23-member grand jury panel, including police, medical officials, track personnel, accident reconstruction experts and others. The grand jury also viewed photos, videos and other evidence, he said.
That Kevin Ward "ran onto a hot track while other cars were racing played a big, big factor" in their decision, Tantillo said.
Tantillo also gave the surprising revelation that Ward was under the influence of marijuana, "enough to impair his judgement" that evening.
More to come.