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UPDATE: Tony Stewart will not face criminal charges in Kevin Ward Jr. case

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Driver Tony Stewart sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. AP photo Driver Tony Stewart sits in his car during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup auto race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. AP photo

UPDATE: A grand jury has decided against charging NASCAR star Tony Stewart in the August death of another driver at a sprint car race in upstate New York.

The decision was announced Wednesday, nearly seven weeks after Stewart's car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. at a dirt-track race on Aug. 9 in Canandaigua (can-uhn-DAY'-gwah). District Attorney Michael Tantillo also said Ward was under the influence of marijuana that night "enough to impair judgment."

Ward had climbed from his car after it had spun while racing alongside Stewart. The 20-year-old walked down the track, waving his arms in an apparent attempt to confront the three-time NASCAR champion.

The front of Stewart's car appeared to clear Ward, but Ward was struck by the right rear tire. He died of blunt force trauma.


PREVIOUS STORY:  The next phase of the Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. saga has begun.

Rochester, New York's Democrat and Chronicle is now reporting that Ontario County (N.Y.) District Attorney Michael Tantillo has convened a grand jury to determine whether the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will face charges for his role in an Aug. 9 sprint car accident that left the 20-year-old Ward dead.

This development comes one week after Tantillo announced that he would forward evidence from the crash investigation to a grand jury, saying that such a decision was “appropriate” following a full review of said investigation.

Shortly after Tantillo's announcement on Sept. 16, Stewart pledged his continued cooperation in a statement.

The D&C's Kevin Oklobzija also reports that Chuck Hebing, who competed in the Aug. 9 race at Canadaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park where Ward lost his life, has confirmed that he's been called in to testify before the grand jury. However, Hebing declined further comment on the subject.

On Aug. 9, Ward climbed out of his car and walked down the racing surface to apparently confront Stewart following an on-track incident between the two when he struck by Stewart's car. Ward was later pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital.

Per New York state laws regarding grand juries, 12 of the 23 jurors must recommend charges before a prosecutor can go about obtaining an indictment.

A New York grand jury can either vote to bring an indictment, vote to dismiss charges, or direct the prosecutor to file information accusing the person of a crime less serious than a felony. It is unknown how long it will take to present the evidence or for witnesses to testify.

While the case has progressed, Stewart has resumed Sprint Cup competition following a three-race absence from the circuit in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.

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