Race Weekend Central

Kickin’ the Tires: Ward Family Seeks Jackpot Justice in Wrongful Death Case

Let’s just get the facts out there before anyone gets confused. On August 9, 2014, a guy racing under the influence of marijuana at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York got in a wreck battling for position against one of the best drivers in the world. The result brought about a tragic turn when the young hothead lost his temper, ran onto the racetrack to confront the other driver, got hit by the racecar and died.

The story I’m referring to involves the deceased driver Kevin Ward Jr., whose autopsy revealed drugs in his system at the time of his death. The other driver involved was three-time Sprint Cup Series Champion, Tony Stewart, who had gone to the rural dirt track to mix it up with the locals and have fun.

Ward’s family is now seeking an undisclosed amount of money, claiming Stewart ended their son’s “successful” racing career.

First, if the Ward family believes their son was going to be the next Stewart, they are misguided, even if he was Rookie of the Year in the Empire Super Sprints four years before. Second, it is sad Ward made such a stupid, life-ending decision – as a trophy, a check or even bragging rights for besting one of motorsport’s top drivers isn’t worth your life. Perhaps, had he not been under the influence of a mind-altering drug, Ward wouldn’t have made the decision he did.

Not surprising, however, the Ward family dug in and excoriated Stewart in the press, making it clear they were going after him and his money. They didn’t care if their loved one exited his racecar during the event, with cars still circulating the track to confront Stewart – in fact they originally bragged about it in a letter to the media. They also ignored the facts revealed in the autopsy.

The family claims Ward did nothing wrong. Essentially, he was just an innocent bystander run down by Stewart, who in their words, “acted with disregard for Ward’s life and safety by driving his vehicle in a manner that would terrorize Ward and thereafter strike, severely injure and kill Ward.”

What is being missed here, is that a grand jury failed to conclude that Stewart did anything wrong. It exonerated Stewart and declined to return an indictment on any of the counts put before them by the local district attorney. Ward’s death was a tragic accident, not a criminal act. Case closed.

Well… the criminal case was closed. But this week, on the one-year anniversary of Ward’s death and as the Sprint Cup Series descended on Watkins Glen, N.Y., the Ward family lived up to its promises to go after Stewart.

Knowing the media would be covering Stewart’s return to the region for the first time since Ward ran in front of his racecar a year before, the Ward’s Houston-based attorney, Mark Lanier, made public the lawsuit filed at 2:41 p.m. Friday, August 7, 2015. It’s doubtful the timing was a coincidence, since the case was filed 11-minutes after the Lanier Law Firm closed its doors for the weekend, so no one could obtain additional comments. The move forced the media to tell just one distorted side of the story and that was, “The personal injuries and death sustained by Ward were caused solely by the negligence and/or recklessness of the Defendant (Stewart) and without any negligence on the part of the Plaintiff Decedent (Ward) contributing thereto.”

As one commenter posted last year, it’s pretty clear to see the Ward family is looking for a little “Jackpot Justice,” especially since they fail to acknowledge several crucial facts. Maybe ignoring the obvious, like his son being high on dope, is how Ward’s father can put his blinders on and try to convince the world, “The focus should be on the actions of Mr. Stewart and not my son.”

It’s truly sad this family can’t come to grips with reality and admit Kevin Ward Jr. would, most likely, be alive today had he not made a series of poor choices that led to his senseless death.

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Pamm in MI

First thing I’ve seen you write that I’ve agreed with. Good, truthful article.


Jackpot Justice indeed. Instead, their son and his name will end up vilified when and if Stewart decides not to settle for any amount and in the near certain verdict to come. Just a sad reminder to the nature of Americans these days of not taking any responsibility for anything. It is always someone else’s fault, even when it is staring you in the face.


I hope it doesn’t happen and Tony fights this, but my guess is, given the kind of person Tony is, he will settle out of court and out of the media to make it go away. I’m sure he has been through hell and back dealing with this and I’m sure doesn’t want to re-live it again.


how accurate are marijuana tests? I realize they’re accurate at testing for the presence of marijuana but doesn’t it also show up in someone’s system for weeks after smoking? Are the test able to pinpoint the time someone smoked? How possible or probable is it that Ward smoked earlier in the week or even the weekend before but still tested positive? If that’s the case how it is any different from a guy getting drunk on Wednesday and racing on Saturday?


Michael Tantillo, district attorney for Ontario County, revealed in the story when he was informed by the chief toxicologist about marijuana in Ward’s system.

“He said, ‘We made some findings here that are very dramatic and we know they will be significant because of the high profile of this case, so we re-checked them and re-re-checked them with multiple chemists and these are valid,’ ” Tantillo told the Democrat & Chronicle. “The metabolites of the marijuana that were found in his system indicated that he had been smoking marijuana probably within a couple hours of the race but at the outside within five hours of the race. It was a significant factor, no question about it


The test showed that he had smoked the marijuana about 4 hours before racing. The fact also was presented that Kevin got into an altercation BEFORE the race and was pissed off. All I know is Tony is INNOCENT.


Does not make any difference the amount. Following NASCAR guidelines any amount is grounds for suspension. Just to make sure that there is no confusion, NASCAR publishes a listing of over 200 over-the-counter medications that are banned.


What Kevin Ward Jr. was the same as getting drunk then go racing. He put everyone at the track in a dangerous situation. This family had my sympathy, not anymore. How they can be so blind to the obvious is totally beyond me.

gene in mich

Sprint car racing is very dangerious. If Ward’s family was so concerned about there “stupid son” they would of never let him drive the car in the first place. Tony should of SUE them for promating a stupid son!!!! Let face it’ it is all about money. I hope the jury finds Tony “not guilty ” and tony sues them right back. I also hopes this comes back to haunt them right back for all the grief they are causing. DO THEY KNOW WHAT “KARMA” is ?????


Maybe it would be better if the legal system did what it was designed to do. A young man is dead as a result of something either party could have avoided. I certainly dont know all the facts and I suspect that the one living person who does will never disclose them to us. A private matter and we can move on.


Amen. Every tragedy is not our business.


I”m not sure I can agree with your comment “either party could have avoided”. If Stewart never saw Kevin on the track due to the type of winged car he was driving (as mentioned above), I’m not sure how he could have avoided it.


“If” is something that none of us will never have the answer to. There were only two people involved, a step to the side by one, a slight turn of the wheel by the other is all that it would have taken. If either one of those had happened we wouldn’t be talking about this. I stand by my statement.


We’re going to get a few things straight right now.

1. FACT. Stewart isn’t even close to being “one of the best race car drivers in the world”. Top 200 at best
2. FACT. Weed is legal in the State of New York
3. FACT. Stewart intentionally tried to “buzz” and intimidate the child Kevin Ward Junior.
4. FACT. The law requires that blood samples are drawn from suspected, criminal killers in vehicular homicide cases. Where are the results of Stewart’s blood test? What drugs or other substances were in Stewart’s system?
5. FACT. NASCAR, Chevy, Bass, Mobil and Coke need to immediately, indefinitely suspend Stewart pending outcome of the court and legal proceedings.


Some of your facts aren’t right.

2-Medicinal marijuana is legal in NY for people who are suffering from terminal illnesses. Even if you are allowed to possess it under the Compassionate Care Act, it is illegal for anyone to operate a motor vehicle under the influence.

4-Stewart did not provide a blood test because in NY you must be charged with a crime before you have to submit a sample.

Points 1, 3, and 5 are all your opinions, which you are entitled to. I do not wish to debate how you have come to your opinions, however, they are not facts.


Fact: your an idiot


Have you ever been at a winged sprint car race or seen this type of car?? Because of the position of the wing, if you approach the car from the right side as Ward did, the driver will not see you until you are close enough to touch it. this was the largest contributing factor that prove to the court that Stewart never saw the Ward until the last moment.

Kenneth mcmillan

You are out of your mind, Tony Stewart has won in open wheel, dirt cars, sprint cup sports cars and you say top 200 your credibility just went out the window. Did you see the video of the ACCIDENT in no way did Tony Stewart try to buzz or intimidate Kevin Ward, you are simply a hater who is intentionally misinformed.


Chase maybe you should correct YOUR FACTS straight before you post:
FACT: Marijuana is NOT legal in the state of NEW YORK – it was just passed for Medicinal use recently in 2015. It is NOT LEGAL for RECREATIONAL — USE! I live in NY

FACT: Tony Stewart IS one of the TOP race car drivers!

QUESTION: Why haven’t the Ward’s gone in search of the person/dealer that Sold their son the ILLEGAL MARIJUANA? Is the ANSWER they know who did and are keeping it hush hush? If it were my child I would certainly want to have the Legal system arrest that person that caused my son to try and jump on Mr Stewart’s car as he was coming by. Maybe it was laced with something- I would want answers not try and sue the innocent person because he has money. Are they just trying to cash in on this…and if for some inane reason they do award them…just say Twenty five dollars will that cover their legal fees? The lawyer gets his money first so say his cut is 33% he would get 8.25 and they would get 16.75 would it really be worth it??


I’m going with Richard


Chase, you want facts? Well here’s a fact for you:

There’s a video on youtube from another angle than the one most are familiar with, from up higher in turn two, looking down on the cars as they go by, In it, you can clearly see Kevin Ward reaching up & grabbing the side plate of Stewart’s wing. At that moment, with that action, Kevin Ward’s fate was sealed & Stewart had nothing to do with it. Kevin Ward caused his own death. I’m not even a Tony Stewart fan, but the evidence is clear in this case, Steweart is 100% innocent & his family needs to just slither away.


Whether or not marijuana is legal in NY, which I’m not sure that is true, doesn”t matter. Alcohol is legal too, but not if you drive under the influence. This family is wasting their time and money. Tony should not settle, son’t consider it, not for a minute.


He did it to his self walking on a track high as ever and put him and others in a deadly situation he was acting like a young punk with drugs added to it…. I pray family gets closer but I support Tony Stewart