Wrongful death lawsuit filed against Tony Stewart by attorneys for family of Kevin Ward Jr.

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Attorneys representing the family of deceased sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. filed a wrongful death lawsuit Friday against Tony Stewart in the 5th Judicial District for the Supreme Court of the state of New York in Lowville, N.Y.

Ward was struck and killed by Stewart Aug. 9, 2014 during a sprint car race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park. Ward exited his car after hitting the wall and walked down the track toward Stewart’s car during the caution when he was hit and killed. An Ontario County (N.Y.) grand jury ruled Sept. 24 that Stewart would not face criminal charges.

The attorneys for the Ward family said in a release that the lawsuit claims Stewart “wrongfully caused Mr. Ward’s death by acting with wanton, reckless and malicious intent and negligence.”

Ward’s parents said in a statement: “Our son was truly the light of our lives and we miss him terribly every day. 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.”

Stewart-Haas Racing had no comment Friday. Stewart is represented by Indianapolis attorney James Voyles, whose clients have included boxer Mike Tyson. Voyles also helped Bill Simpson file a lawsuit against NASCAR after Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s death in 2001.

The Ward family, which is seeking punitive damages, has requested a jury trial. The lawsuit does not specify the amount of damages the family seeks.

“Kevin Ward would be alive today if not for the reckless and dangerous actions of Tony Stewart, who eventually will have to answer for what he did,” said Mark Lanier of The Lanier Law Firm in a release. “The past year has been extremely difficult for Kevin’s mother and father, and they’re still trying to cope with their unimaginable loss.”

The release also says that the family or its lawyers do not plan further comment.

NBC Legal Analyst Jack Furlong said on NASCAR America on the timing of the lawsuit being filed Friday while Stewart was competing at Watkins Glen International: “Strange would be one word. The more cynical amongst us would say the publicity value is not lost on any of us. It’s the one-year anniversary (of the incident).

“It is, in effect, a statement across the bow of Tony Stewart’s people that if you think we’re going away quietly, you are sadly mistaken.”

Furlong said that once the lawsuit has been served to Stewart and a response made, both sides can begin the discovery phase, “meaning taking depositions, exchanging documents, experts’ reports, statements, you name it, the whole gamut.”

Michael McCann, a Massachusetts attorney and director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, wrote for Sports Illustrated last year that “a successful wrongful death lawsuit could lead to millions of dollars in damages, particularly since wrongful death damages are largely contingent on the decedent’s age and loss of future earnings.”

Kevin Ward Jr. was 20 when he died.

McCann wrote that “Ward’s family would need to convince a jury that Stewart’s conduct was probably unreasonable and caused Ward’s death. Other drivers would be called to testify as experts and offer their views as to the reasonableness of Stewart’s conduct. Stewart himself could also be called to testify. His ability to invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering questions would depend on whether the questions asked of him require him to admit that he engaged in criminal conduct.”

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Kevin Ward Sr. and Pamela Ward, states that six cars passed by Kevin Ward Jr. after he exited his car and walked down the track.

The lawsuit states: “As Stewart’s car approached Ward, who was standing on the track, Stewart climbed up, gunned his engine, causing his 700-horsepower vehicle to slide and strike Ward with his right rear tire, crushing Ward and flinging his body an estimated 25 feet down the track.”

The lawsuit states: “Defendant Stewart could have easily acted reasonably and with prudence to avoid striking Ward, just as all other drivers had done as they passed Ward during the yellow caution flag.

“Stewart acted with disregard for Ward’s life and safety by driving his vehicle in a manner that would terrorize Ward and thereafter strike, severely injure and kill Ward.

“Stewart’s conduct, by gunning his engine on a track that had been under caution for an extended period of time proximately caused the harm suffered and death of Plaintiff’s decedent herein.”

The lawsuit also states: “The personal injuries and death sustained by Ward were caused solely by the negligence and/or recklessness of the Defendant (Stewart) and without any negligence on the part of the Plaintiff Decedent contributing thereto.”

Michael Tantillo, Ontario County District Attorney, said after the 23-member grand jury decided not to charge Stewart that toxicology levels indicated that Kevin Ward Jr. was under the influence of marijuana “enough to impair judgment” at the time of the accident.

Tantillo said the grand jury saw two videos of the incident – one that became public shortly after the incident and one that did not. Tantillo said that “the videos did not demonstrate any aberrational driving by Tony Stewart until the point of impact with Kevin Ward.”

After the grand jury’s decision, Ward’s mother  issued a statement on behalf of the family:

“Our son got out of his car during caution while the race was suspended. All the other vehicles were reducing speed and not accelerating, except for Tony Stewart, who intentionally tried to intimidate Kevin by accelerating and sliding his car toward him, causing the tragedy.

“The focus should be on the actions of Mr. Stewart and not my son.’’

In an interview with The Associated Press on Sept. 26 – two days after the grand jury declared he would not face criminal charges – Stewart said: “I know 100 percent in my heart and my mind that I did not do anything wrong.”

Stewart also told the AP then: “I would hope (the Ward family would) understand – maybe they do, maybe they don’t, maybe they never will – that I do care. I’ve tried to be respectful of their process of grieving and not push myself on them. I’m sure they have things that they want to know what happened, and I think it’s important for them at some point to hear it from my point.”

In a Sept. 29 press conference at Stewart-Haas Racing, Stewart told reporters that he had viewed video of the incident and it reaffirmed his belief it was an accident.

Asked about the revelation that Kevin Ward Jr. had marijuana in his system, Stewart said at the press conference: “A young driver lost his life. No matter what was said, it was a tragic accident. I know in my heart that it was 100 percent an accident.’’

 

 

 

Sponsor adds more races in 2023 with Josh Berry

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Jarrett Companies will increase the number of races it will sponsor Josh Berry‘s No. 8 JR Motorsports ride in 2023, the Xfinity Series team announced Monday.

Jarrett Companies will sponsor Berry in six races after serving as the primary sponsor in three races in 2022. Those six races will be Phoenix (March 11), Richmond (April 1), Dover (April 29), Atlanta (July 8), Indianapolis (Aug. 12) and Texas (Sept. 23).

The deal gives Berry at least 26 races with sponsorship for next season. Bass Pro Shops will serve as the primary sponsor of Berry’s car in 11 races in 2023. Tire Pros is back with JRM and will sponsor Berry in nine races in the upcoming season.

Berry, who reached the Xfinity title race and finished fourth in the points, will have a new crew chief in 2023. Taylor Moyer will take over that role with Mike Bumgarner serving as JRM’s director of competition.

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.

 

Where are they now? Buddy Parrott enjoying down time

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Buddy Parrott played outsized roles in two of the most dramatic races in NASCAR history.

Now 83 years old and retired from the sport since 2001, Parrott looks back on those two days as highlights of a career that began in the early 1970s.

In the 1990 Daytona 500, champion driver Dale Earnhardt seemed on course to end his frustration in NASCAR’s biggest event. He held the lead roaring down the backstretch on the last lap. Suddenly, Earnhardt slowed with a blown tire.

The lead was inherited by Derrike Cope, who charged to the checkered flag to score one of racing’s biggest upsets.

Parrott was Cope’s crew chief.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: Memorable quotes through the years

In 1984, Richard Petty edged Cale Yarborough to win the summer race at Daytona International Speedway. It was Petty’s 200th – and final – win.

Parrott was Petty’s crew chief.

Those victories were high marks in a long pit-road career that saw Parrott’s drivers win dozens of races. He worked with, among others, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Burton and Petty and for team owners Jack Roush and Roger Penske.

Parrott remains active at 83, although he admits to having moved to a slower gear.

“I haven’t been living on the edge,” Parrott told NBC Sports. “I’ve been taking it really easy. I told my sons when you get to be 80 you can do anything you want because basically you’ve already done it.”

MORE: NASCAR, ARCA 2023 schedules

His strongest current connection to NASCAR is as a voter in the annual Hall of Fame balloting.

After more than 20 years roaming pit roads as a crew chief, Parrott moved into a general manager role at Roush Racing in 1997. He retired four years later and didn’t look back.

“I finally told Jack one day, ‘I don’t have time to ride my motorcycle,’ ” Parrott said. “He looked at me and said, ‘What do you want to do about it?’ I said, ‘I’m ready to retire.’ He told me I could work whatever schedule I wanted, but I decided that was it. I didn’t have a going-away thing or whatever.”

Parrott spent much of the next 15 years traveling with his wife, Judy, who died in 2016, and playing with his grandchildren.

“I had a great time in retirement because Judy was ready and I was ready,” he said. “We had a lot of fun. We’d go to Florida for two and three months at a time. I’m so happy that I didn’t hang on and go to the shop every day and try to find something to do. I spent that time with Judy, and we had 16 years of good retirement.”

Parrott, a native of Gastonia, N.C., lives in Statesville, N.C. His sons, Todd and Brad, also were NASCAR crew chiefs.

MORE: Jody Ridley’s Dover win an upset for the ages

Parrott is perhaps best remembered as crew chief for Rusty Wallace, Team Penske and the No. 2 black cars sponsored by Miller Lite. From 1992-94, they won 19 races and were consistently competitive at the front.

“I still get a lot of cards sent to me to sign from those years,” Parrott said. “I can say that was some of the happiest times I had. Those years with Rusty – and then with Jack Roush – really stand out. And who in the hell could not have fun having a beer sponsor?”

 

 

NASCAR Awards to air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Joey Logano didn’t need much time to answer the question.

Who would the two-time Cup champion want to introduce him at the NASCAR Awards?

Racing icon Mario Andretti, Logano immediately said. 

And there was Andretti on the stage at the Music City Center introducing Logano, the 2022 Cup champion. Watch that and the rest of the night’s festivities at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock. You can order Peacock here.

MORE: See the red carpet scene

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NBC Sports’ Marty Snider and Kim Coon co-hosted the show along with Fox Sports’ Kaitlyn Vincie. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck champions were honored. Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, whose father died hours after Gibbs won the Xfinity title last month, received a standing ovation and thanked the industry for its support.

The highlight of the night for Logano was having Andretti on stage to introduce him.

“He’s just been a great role model for me, not only as a racer, but as a person for so long,” Logano said afterward. “I had his picture on my wall. I looked at Mario Andretti before I went to sleep every night as a kid. I thought it was the coolest thing that he signed it to me.”

NASCAR Awards and Champion Celebration
Cup champion Joey Logano on stage with racing icon Mario Andretti during the NASCAR Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Logano and Andretti have gotten to know each other through the years. Logano ran a throwback car that honored Andretti at Darlington Raceway in 2015 and 2021.

But none of that compared to being on stage with Andretti.

“That’s still like a pinch-me moment,” Logano said. “It’s Mario Andretti. He’s the man. The fact that he knows my name I think is really, really cool.”

Catch the NASCAR Awards at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community showed its support Thursday at the NASCAR Awards for the Gibbs family, grieving the death of Coy Gibbs on Nov. 6. 

During his interview on stage, car owner Joe Gibbs thanked the NASCAR industry for its support. (The NASCAR Awards show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock).

Coy Gibbs, son of Joe Gibbs and father of Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, died hours after seeing Ty Gibbs win the series title last month at Phoenix Raceway. Coy Gibbs, 49, was the vice chairman and chief operating officer at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief operating officer, introduced Ty Gibbs at the NASCAR Awards and noted that “everyone gathered tonight is all a part of the NASCAR family, and I know I speak for everyone that the entire NASCAR family is 100% percent behind this young man.”

Ty Gibbs received a standing ovation.

“Thank you,” he told the crowd, “that means a lot.”

Ty Gibbs spoke for less than a minute, thanking his team, sponsors, fans and the NASCAR community.

He closed his speech by saying “And thanks to my family. I love you. I hope everybody has a great offseason. Enjoy it. Thank you for all the support. Thank you for all the claps. I really appreciate it.”

Ty Gibbs spoke to the media earlier Thursday. Asked how he was doing, he said: “I’ve been doing good. Thank you for asking and definitely appreciate you guys. We’ve been doing good, doing a lot of stuff this week. … It’s been fun to experience this stuff.”

Asked about Joe Gibbs addressing the organization after Coy’s death, Ty Gibbs politely said: “For right now, I’m not going to touch on any of that subject at all. I’m just going to stick with all the racing questions and go from there.”

Cup champion Joey Logano said he spent time with 20-year-old Ty Gibbs on Wednesday at the champion’s dinner.

Logano said he told Ty Gibbs that “we’re here for you. You need something reach out.”