News Column

Stewart's Return to Auto Racing Uncertain

August 12, 2014

By Jeff Gluck and Nate Ryan, @jeff_gluck, @nateryan, USA TODAY Sports

The investigation into a fatal accident involving NASCAR star Tony Stewart continues, but a timeline for his return to racing remains unknown.

For the three-time NASCAR champion whose passion is grass-roots racing, the hobby that fuels his success now haunts him in the aftermath of the death of sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr., struck and killed by Stewart's car during a dirt race in upstate New York last weekend.

Mike Arning, director of communications for Stewart-Haas Racing, told USA TODAY Sports that Stewart's sprint car schedule was indefinitely suspended and he was mulling whether he would return to NASCAR this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.

"The decision to compete in this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Michigan will be Tony's, and he will have as much time as he needs to make that decision," Arning said in an e-mail to USA TODAY Sports. "It is still an emotional time for all involved, Tony included. He is grieving, and grief doesn't have a timetable."

Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said Monday there were no criminal charges pending from the incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, adding the investigation was progressing well.

"At this time, there are no facts that exist that support any criminal behavior or conduct or any probable cause of a criminal act in this investigation," he said.

"This is an open investigation. What I have just said is not indicative that the investigation is over or conclusions have been made, but that we are continuing to gather all information."

He also said an autopsy conducted Monday by the Ontario County coroner found Ward's cause of death to be massive blunt trauma.

Investigators are analyzing two spectator-filmed videos -- meaning they have another angle in addition to the one that has been circulating around YouTube since Sunday morning.

There was no in-car camera in Stewart's car, Povero said.

Law enforcement officers returned to Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Monday to look at the crash scene and make observations that might be relevant to the crash, Povero said.

The sheriff also said he was unable to talk about toxicology results or whether Stewart was tested after the incident.

Ward, whose car was spun out into an outside wall by Stewart, exited his vehicle and walked down the track to point at Stewart when his car came back around during a caution lap. The back right rear of Stewart's car clipped Ward, whose body was thrown.

Stewart and his representatives remain cooperative, Povero said, but he declined to give details on what Stewart said.

"We would like to see resolution as quickly as possible, but by the same token we don't want to leave any stone unturned."

Funeral arrangements for Ward Jr. include visitation from noon-4 p.m. ET and 6-9 p.m. ET Wednesday at Trainor Funeral Home in Boonville, N.Y., according to owner Carl Trainor. The funeral will be Thursday at 11a.m. ET at South Lewis Senior High School in Turin, N.Y.

Contributing: (Rochester, N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle

Original headline: Stewart's return uncertain

Source: Copyright 2014 USA TODAY

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