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Tony Stewart Not Charged; Kevin Ward Jr. Had Pot In System

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 9/24/2014 Chris Clonts

A New York grand jury has declined to indict NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart in the Aug. 9 on-track death of Kevin Ward Jr., likely in part because Ward had marijuana in his system at the time of the accident.

tony stewart inside nascar car© Provided by MotorTrend tony stewart inside nascar car

USA Today reported that Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo said the grand jury considered two charges: criminally negligent homicide and second-degree manslaughter. He said the grand jury deliberated for two days, but would not say whether Stewart testified.

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CBS News reported that Tantillo said tests showed that Ward was under the influence of marijuana when he died, and that the levels of marijuana in his system were high enough to "impair judgment."

The incident happened during a non-NASCAR sprint car race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. Stewart had put Ward into the wall, disabling Ward's car. Ward climbed out of the car and appeared to point at Stewart's approaching vehicle. He was sent flying after contact with Stewart's rear wheel.

The accident caused NASCAR to implement a rules change requiring drivers to stay inside their cars until safety personnel arrive unless a car is on fire. That's an unwritten rule of racing, but even Stewart himself had violated it at times. The accident originally polarized the online racing and race-fan community, with some defending Stewart, citing the unwritten rule, and some saying Stewart was an expert at car control and could have prevented the accident.

Stewart still could face a civil lawsuit by the Ward family.

UPDATE: Sounds like that's a very strong possibility, as Ward's family issued a statement saying that they do not consider the matter to be "at rest," and will pursue "all remedies."

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