Well over three years since an accident that claimed the life of 20-year-old Sprint Car racer Kevin Ward, lawyers for that driver’s family and NASCAR legend Tony Stewart may have reached a settlement agreement that could finally put the matter to rest. The case resulted from an incident that occurred on August 9, 2014 at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in the state of New York.
The suit was set to go to trial in five weeks in Utica, NY.
Stewart was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing by a grand jury in September of 2014 but the family of the young racer later filed a wrongful death civil suit against the former NASCAR champion in August of 2015.
The incident took place during an Empire Super Series event. Stewart and Ward were racing side-by-side when Ward’s car spun into the outside wall after apparent contact between the two and was damaged to the point that he could not continue in the race. After climbing from his wrecked machine, Ward walked across the race track, gesturing in Stewart’s direction as the cars rolled back around the speedway under caution. Ward then was struck by Stewart’s car. He was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.
Later autopsy reports revealed that Ward had traces of marijuana in his system.
Stewart stated in a deposition taken in December of 2016 that he “attempted to change direction” when he realized that someone was approaching his car. Further, he added that, “It was a split second from the time that I saw a person until I got to the person.”
Had it gone to trial, the suit could have had far reaching implications for dirt racing, or all forms of racing for that matter. Track and driver liability in regard to on-track incidents and post-incident confrontations would almost certainly have been brought into question. As a result, insurance premiums for all involved in the sport could have been significantly impacted depending on what decision a jury might have reached.
The terms of the pending settlement are not yet known, and may never be publicly reveled.
Stewart is heavily involved in dirt racing. He owns and operates Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, one of the sport’s most renowned venues. Further he also owns Tony Stewart Racing, which fields Sprint Cars for himself and World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series champion Donny Schatz. And more, the three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver is also co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, which fields cars in NASCAR’s highest division for drivers Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola.