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Sheriff: No evidence of criminal intent from Tony Stewart at this time

Aug 10, 2014, 4:17 PM EDT

In a mid-afternoon press conference, Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff Philip Povero said that as of now, there are “no facts in hand” to support criminal intent from Tony Stewart after he was involved in a fatal incident during a sprint car race Saturday night at New York’s Canandaigua Motorsports Park.

Povero also mentioned that the investigation was still ongoing and that multiple factors were being taken into account such as the condition of the track’s clay surface and the lighting of the Turn 2 area where the incident took place.

“There are no foregone conclusions made at this point,” Povero said of the investigation. “We’re looking for any information, any relative evidence, that will help us to come to a final determination as to why this happened.”

Stewart and Kevin Ward tangled during a 25-lap sprint car event and Ward ultimately spun out in Turn 2. Seconds after his car came to a stop, he exited it and walked down the track surface to confront Stewart as the race went under caution.

According to a press release issued last night by the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office, one car swerved to avoid Ward before Stewart’s car struck Ward and knocked him back 50 feet. Ward was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Povero has maintained that Stewart – who is not competing today in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International – is being cooperative with the investigation.

Additionally, Povero added that investigators traveled to WGI today in hopes of speaking with him or his representatives.

Stewart’s No. 14 team from Stewart Haas Racing is competing today with Nationwide Series driver Regan Smith serving as a substitute driver.

During the event, Stewart issued a statement saying that “there aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel” about Saturday’s incident and that his thoughts and prayers were with everyone affected.

  1. rickditka - Aug 10, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    Those defending Tony Stewart are no different than Michael Jackson defenders. “He cant be a pedophile, because I like his music soo much”.

    • chad4208 - Aug 10, 2014 at 6:03 PM

      that makes no sense. Those defending tony have facts to back up there statement. I dont see any facts in what you just posted. just a dumb rants, however i think jackson is a pedo as well for the record

    • drewsylvania - Aug 10, 2014 at 6:17 PM

      Facts please.

      • nygregg - Aug 10, 2014 at 7:17 PM

        Well, last year Tony caused a 15 car wreck at the same track about the same time. He critically injured one driver with a broken back. He needs to stay out of our neck of the woods. He’s reckless and proved it by taking full responsibility for last year’s crash and now he’s killed a guy…..What’s it going to take for them to charge him and ban him from racing?
        My opinion after watching the video, it looked as if he was trying to “dust off” or “rooster tail” Ward and it went terribly wrong. Ward was wrong for his hotheaded move but Stewart used a few thousand pound weapon with his hot head…The Ontario County Sheriff usually does a thorough, unbiased, I’ll believe him over anyone.

    • cwifyou - Aug 10, 2014 at 6:19 PM

      Wow…you convinced me. So much knowledge.

  2. pitbullinheels - Aug 10, 2014 at 5:17 PM

    Tony may not have meant to kill him but there’s no way he didn’t mean to hit him. Not to mention the fact that Tony was originally going to race today until his PR people stepped in shows what a dick he is.

    • jeff91121 - Aug 10, 2014 at 7:37 PM

      I guess you were an eye witness close enough to see exactly what happened. Make sure you make yourself available to the investigators. I am sure they will be interested in what you have to say. Not to mention the fact that the best way to avoid getting hit on a race track is to not be walking on the track.

    • chad4208 - Aug 10, 2014 at 11:33 PM

      you dont know the PR people had anything to do with it. Thats an opinion. and again you have to be a complete moron to think he meant to actually hit him…in a public place….in full view of however many people there, cops and all. Think okay

  3. mtheparrothead - Aug 10, 2014 at 5:17 PM

    Ridiculous attempt to correlate. The car in front swerved just the same as Stewart did, and I’m by no means a Stewart fan.

  4. haterhurter937 - Aug 10, 2014 at 5:22 PM

    I seen the video on deadspin, I don’t understand how anyone could defend Stewart after seeing that. Make all the excuses you want about lighting, track conditions, etc. there was some clear intent by Stewart to Rev his engine at him and doing so started his car sliding resulting in the contact and eventual death.

    • worknman24hours - Aug 10, 2014 at 9:18 PM

      Ward was blind with rage and ran down the track at tony who had no idea Ward would ever get that clsoe to his race car.

      Tony thought Ward would do what 99% of drivers do and point at him and possibly throw his helmet or gloves or give him the finger as Tony drove by.

      Ward was so impossibly mad (apparently) that when Tony drove by him,Ward appears to have reached at Tony between the front and rear tires as Tony’s car drove by.

      What Tony did after that was a millisecond of trying to get his race car to not drive over a guy that just put himself in a lethal position right in front of the spinning huge rear tires of Tony’s race car.

      Yank the car around Ward and spin his tires at the same time trying to get the rear of the car to go around the angry young man.

      It’s very clear that Ward was so damn mad at Tony he put himself in a impossible place to miss him on the track by trying to get at Tony while Tony’s car was still moving.

      This is a very ugly reminder of what happens when you place yourself a dangerous position and act in way that no one can predict.

      • bru308 - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:01 AM

        You didn’t watch the video.

        At the last second, Ward can be seen moving back up the track in a quick manner. That completely disproves what you’re arguing here- If he was so full of rage that he was trying to get at Tony, why would he be moving back up the track?

  5. chad4208 - Aug 10, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    yes he reved the engine….and reving the engine spins the tires. There are 2 reasons one would want to spin the tires.
    1. clean them….track was muddy so I hear so it was to sling off excess slop for the restart
    2. sling dirt at ward….slinging dirt a common deal (which is what I think he did and accidentally went up the track/came too close

    so……..those are the facts. The car did not accelerate toward Ward. That would have prompted an immediate charge. At least that is how I interpret the report

    • gasitup1 - Aug 10, 2014 at 8:27 PM

      Sprint cars don’t run a differential, they run a straight axle. In order to steer the car on dirt at low speeds especially, you need to spin the rear tires. Otherwise turning the steering wheel is of little use as the car tends to plow straight ahead with the back tires rotating at the same speed, which is fine straight, but the outside tire needs to rotate faster than the inside tire in order to turn the car..

      What is likely being misconstrued as Tony trying to scare the kid on the track, was likely in fact Tony attempting to avoid him when he ran at the car , with but a split second to react. The car in front was forced to do the same evasive maneuver, and the kid was even further onto the track & in dangers path by the time Tony saw him.

      • chad4208 - Aug 10, 2014 at 11:40 PM

        which is even more proof that people like pitbullinheels are blinded by sport fan/fanboy logic and have no common sense and actually believe someone would attempt to run over someone in full view of hundreds of people when millions know who he is. Really makes sense. But that is new info! See, the Tony supporters…or at least people who arent making dumb statements like “OMG, TONY murdered a guy!” are contributing relevant and logical info to this. Instead of making dumb statements about a dead pedo

      • velvett2014 - Aug 11, 2014 at 5:32 PM

        To me it’s an unfortunate accident. Ward should never have been on the track. The car before Tony was just barely able to avoid him, for Ward to move even further into the track, intentionally stepping in front of Tony his car. There is a reason you are not supposed to walk on the track! It’s dangerous.. I wish Tony all the best and to Wards family my condolences.

  6. pitpenguinsrulez - Aug 10, 2014 at 6:16 PM

    Ward is also at fault. Nobody told him to go confront Tony on track. If he waits until the race is over it’s no issue. Also the steering in those cars is rather difficult under low speed. No trying to make an excuse for Tony but that’s the fact. I’m a nascar fan, not a tony fan, but both parties are at fault.

  7. drewsylvania - Aug 10, 2014 at 6:18 PM

    Don’t know if Stewart did it on purpose or not, but, if he did, would the cops tell us?

    • nygregg - Aug 10, 2014 at 7:20 PM

      The County Sheriff has always handled things with unbiased, hard nosed prosecution. I think he’s one of the few that we can trust, especially in this situation.

    • chad4208 - Aug 10, 2014 at 11:41 PM

      wed know when his ass goes to jail

  8. fordmandalay - Aug 10, 2014 at 6:57 PM

    If you’re Joe Blow on the street, and you spin your tires to ‘throw mud’ at someone, lose control and kill them – that’s manslaughter. It doesn’t matter what your intent was, you’ve committed a crime and you’re going to jail. But you’re also a member of the lower tier of our justice system, while Stewart is a member of the upper tier, so he’ll be protected and won’t be charged.

  9. nygregg - Aug 10, 2014 at 7:22 PM

    By the way, Sheriff Povero has put out a request for any video OR anyone with dirt track expertise that can shed light to contact him. I think he will get to the bottom of it and not sweep this under the rug.

  10. sabatimus - Aug 10, 2014 at 7:51 PM

    I have no idea if Stewart hit him on purpose, didn’t see him because of the driver in front of him, or simply wanted to throw mud at him…but what Ward did was perhaps the most foolish thing I have ever seen.

    • worknman24hours - Aug 10, 2014 at 9:21 PM

      Ward ran right at Tony’s race car approaching him at thirty miles per hour and closed on him in a way no driver has ever done as far as I know.

      Most angry drivers yell and point and give the other driver the finger while maintaining a safe distance for themselves to not get killed on track.

      • sabatimus - Aug 10, 2014 at 10:10 PM

        Given where Ward’s vehicle came to a stop, it was stupid for him to even get out.

  11. xjokerz - Aug 10, 2014 at 9:33 PM

    i guess the Sheriffs office didnt see the Video on DeadSpin.

    only a matter of time.

    • sabatimus - Aug 10, 2014 at 10:09 PM

      It was back on YouTube about 2 hours ago.

  12. worknman24hours - Aug 10, 2014 at 10:55 PM

    The worse case scenario here is this.

    Tony saw Ward and guessed he was mad as hell.

    Tony thought,”let me give this clown a dose of track mud and show him who is boss around here.”

    Tony moves up track slightly and gasses the throttle,slinging the rear out slightly thinking that Ward will stay right where he is at when Tony starts the move.

    Ward is absolutely blind with rage and thinks,”I am going to kill that sorry blank blank when I get my hands on him!”

    Ward sees what Tony is about to do to him,Ward being in dirt racing as long as he has knows full well what Tony is about to try and do to him,dose him with track mud and that makes Ward go totally insane and move towards Stewart after Tony has already started his ‘dose him with mud’ move.

    Ward sees only at the last second he has made a fatal move and tries to turn away from Stewarts closing rear tires but it is too late.

    He looks to have tried to grab on the side of Stewarts car as he goes down but the rear tires simply do their deadly work and Ward is gone to the dirt instantly with massive internal injuries.

    So what was a massively angry driver and another driver doing a taunting maneuver so old that almost all top dirt Sprint drivers may have done it at some time or the other to an opponent collided in a fatal encounter neither wanted to have play out in that way at all.

    That fits the definition of an accident.

    Stewart will undoubtedly face a civil lawsuit from wards family for his responsibility in driving the car that ran over Ward but this is in no way a murder.

    All Tony would have wanted to do was spray a little mud on Ward-not kill him.

    Ward would have probably liked to beat the crap out of Stewart had he been able to get his hands on him and died getting way too close to a closing race car trying to do just that.

    I repeat-the move Tony may have been trying to do was something that has been done since open wheel sprints have been raced.

    In no way an attempt to hurt anyone.

    Just fire em up and drive away laughing.

    As it’s been done for many decades in this type of dirt racing.

    Instead,no one is laughing now.

    • bru308 - Aug 11, 2014 at 9:14 AM

      Now this ^^^ comment I can agree too. Both drivers carry fault in this accident. Tony will not be charged with a crime, but will face civil lawsuits for his part.

      For the Tony apologists, somebody with his veteran status should never even be in that position. Why did he need to be that high on the track, when there was a wrecked car there in the first place? It’s a sprint car, you’re not blind in there. He would’ve seen the wrecked car in turn 2 coming down the front straight and entering turn 1, and he still chose to drive high. His temper got the best of him here, whether you accept it or not.

      And the arguement about him trying to corner at low speeds could be true, but proves nothing. He should’ve known better and stayed away from anything he might hit will having to corner (rev the motor and swing the back end)- like, you know, every other sprint car driver on every other track does multiple nights a week….. Tony’s a veteran you say? Why did he make such a rookie mistake then?

      Either way, Stewart will live with his choices for the rest of his life.

  13. charger383 - Aug 10, 2014 at 10:58 PM

    Would Ward have acted this way to a local driver?

    • worknman24hours - Aug 10, 2014 at 11:06 PM

      I think Ward would have acted this way to any driver he was having a strong competition with and that they had had words before the crash.

      And Tony is a human being and does make mistakes-big shocker.

      But Ward made a bad mistake too not realizing the position he had placed himself in.

  14. barkar942 - Aug 11, 2014 at 1:23 AM

    Two simple words describe the whole episode- Tragic and Sad.
    If this tragic happening occurred with one of that series regular drivers at the wheel, this would be nothing more than a two paragraph blurb that might have made it onto the local news website in Ontario, NY.
    My condolences to the family of Kevin Ward Jr., and my best wishes to Tony Stewart, knowing that nothing he can ever do will change the results of the tragic event that occurred last night.

  15. scyankee64 - Aug 12, 2014 at 1:15 PM

    The commenters who keep saying the video shows Stewart did it on purpose probably don’t know how sprint cars operate.

    1. Simply turning the steering wheel doesn’t turn a sprint car. You must turn the wheel AND hit the gas to make it turn.

    2. Sprint cars are push started and once they are moving they have to keep moving to remain started. Idle for a sprint car is basically 35 mph. The driver has to hit the gas at slow speeds to keep the car running.

    There are several other things that are different about these cars: the braking system is completely different…the wing makes seeing to the right very difficult. I don’t want to write a book here. I’m not a Stewart fan; I actually haven’t had a “favorite” racer since Bobby Allison retired, but there is nothing in that video to indicate Stewart was trying to kick dirt on him or cause him harm. Everything can be easily explained by the nature of the car.

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