From My Recliner: Tony Stewart/Ward Family Case About Timing


Tony Stewart talks with Kurt Busch prior to the Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway. (Photo by Tammy Snyder)

It came as no surprise when it was announced today that the family of Kevin Ward Jr. filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Tony Stewart from the incident that took place under caution during the Empire Super Sprints race Aug. 9, 2014 at Canandaigua Motorsports Park.

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A Grand Jury in New York state in Ontario County watched two videos of Stewart’s car striking Ward, and Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo said they showed “no aberrational driving” by Stewart before his car hit Ward. Ward had marijuana in his system at the time of his death, Tantillo said when announcing the grand jury decision.

Common sense doesn’t always prevail when parents lose a child. It also doesn’t hurt the cause when the person you are filing suit against is a multi-millionaire.

If the Ward family wants Tony Stewart to pay for what was determined by law enforcement and a grand jury to be a racing accident, they obviously haven’t been watching for the past year. The press conference Stewart had prior to his return to Sprint Cup racing was that of a broken man.

I can only imagine how many times Tony Stewart has replayed the accident in his mind knowing that he was driving the car that took the life of a 20 year-old.

The Ward family attorney Mark Lanier said, “A jury needs to see the video, learn of Tony Stewart’s past, and give the verdict that delivers justice. Tony’s actions took the life of a marvelous young, talented man.”

Stewart has had his fair share of hot-headed incidents on and off the track. Stewart also bought a set of tires for Morgan Shepherd when his team couldn’t afford another set. He has funded rescues of greyhounds when their racing days are over. He has bought HANS devices when he has seen dirt track racers who needed them. He spends a day a year at Texas Motor Speedway giving fans rides around the track, spending time with fans and participating in their victory lane ceremonies all to raise money for Speedway Childrens Charities. This is the past that will not be brought up by Lanier and the Ward family.

I am really choosing my words carefully as I write this. I understand the grief that the family is feeling. I have children of my own and can’t fathom the idea of burying my child.

Let’s look at the background of attorney Lanier. From the firm’s website, his bio states, “W Mark Lanier Attorney, Author, Teacher, Pastor and Expert Story Teller, W. Mark Lanier is no stranger to the public rostrum. He founded The Lanier Law Firm in 1990. Since then, Mark Lanier has earned international recognition as one of the top trial attorneys in the United States. Firm offices in Houston.”

The Ward family isn’t the wealthiest family in upstate New York, but they can have one of the “top trial attorneys in the United States” representing them. This is a money grab pure and simple and the timing of the lawsuit is all about getting as much press as possible. There were 363 days between the accident and the lawsuit being filed, the day that the Sprint Cup Series returns to Watkins Glen.

My Mom always said don’t speak ill of the dead. I want to share what has been presented as fact in the Grand Jury investigation.

1. Kevin Ward Jr. had marijuana in his system when the accident took place.
2. Kevin Ward Jr. ran toward Stewart’s car after they got together on the track.

Those are the two facts that should reign true while this suit is being worked out.

During the Smoke Show at Texas Motor Speedway, Stewart spoke about how he has been dealing with the recovery from his sprint car accident in 2013 that broke his right leg and the accident involving Kevin Ward Jr.

"I don’t think I’ll ever be the same from what happened the last two years. I don’t know how you could be. I don’t know how anybody could ever be back to exactly the way they were. But not being back exactly the same I was doesn’t mean I (haven’t) become better in some ways. There are always positives that come out of every scenario."

Tony Stewart has had enough to deal with over the past two years.

It is sad that Kevin Ward Jr. died in the accident, but if a grand jury didn’t indict Stewart, how can a civil court find him guilty of the wrongful death of Kevin Ward Jr.

In the Ward family statement they said, “Our hope is that this lawsuit will hold Tony Stewart responsible for killing our son and show him there are real consequences when someone recklessly takes another person’s life.”

The fact of the matter is if Kevin Ward Jr. didn’t come down on the track that was active, Kevin Ward Jr. would be racing a sprint car tomorrow night and Tony Stewart wouldn’t be replaying that tragedy everyday.

I hope that common sense prevails, but I bet it won’t.

That is the view from my recliner.

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