Open letter from Kevin Ward Jr.’s aunt questions Tony Stewart, evidence of marijuana in nephew’s system

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In an open letter written to USA Today, Kevin Ward Jr.’s aunt, Wendi Ward, on Sunday questioned why Tony Stewart never reached out to her family after the tragedy, as well as why it was revealed that her nephew had marijuana in his system at the time of the accident.

Wendi Ward read her letter over the phone to USA Today. It’s clear by Wendi Ward’s words that the pain and wound of Kevin’s death in a tragic accident in a sprint car dirt track race involving the NASCAR star on August 9 remains deep and fresh.

MORE: Click here for the entire open letter from Wendi Ward to USA Today.

A significant part of Wendi Ward’s letter appeared to question or discount why so much attention was focused on the fact that a post-mortem medical examination found her nephew had marijuana in his system at the time of the tragedy.

“Why was the toxicology report even an issue?” Wendi Ward questioned. “Seems to me the wrong man was on trial. Tell me why Tony Stewart was not taken in for testing, why his car wasn’t impounded. Tell me how a man the size of Kevin can make a sprint car turn to the right on impact. Tell me how a lap before (the incident) everything was fine, but the following lap was poor lighting. Tell me how a NASCAR star totally forgot what caution means.

“Maybe he should get a different headset so he is able to hear on the radio that the car in caution is up high, so go low. Or was he low until he rounded the corner and saw Kevin Jr. standing up for himself?”

On Wednesday, shortly after the grand jury declined to indict Tony Stewart on any criminal charges, Ontario County (N.Y.) district attorney Michael Tantillo said that toxicology reports indicated Kevin Ward Jr. was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York.

“This means nothing to me,” Wendi Ward wrote, adding, “but I want to say it is my understanding that pot stays in a person’s system days, weeks, possibly months. Rumor has it that it may be legalized and prescribed for some patients, so then will these people have their drivers’ licenses taken away because it makes you react – supposedly — in a certain way?

“To me, that’s not the case. It’s known to mellow a person. We understand that the report showed marijuana, but we as a family don’t believe he was under the influence or impaired at the time due to the 10 hours prior to the race that he spent with the family.

“What we do believe is that maybe people react to certain situations because of anger. I’ve seen it in NASCAR, sports functions and even on our own roads. And yes, these people have to pay for their actions. Well, I guess it depends on who you are.”

Wendi Ward also criticized Stewart for allegedly not reaching out to the family after the tragedy.

“I guess we will never know why all of this was not taken into consideration,” Wendi Ward wrote. “Or will we never know why a fellow driver did not check on this young man or his family? Or do we know why? I do, because I have seen the video. It’s there, and it’s real.

“I can’t speak for others. These are my opinions and concerns. I only hope some people take a minute to make sure they have done no wrong before throwing stones.”

Wendi Ward signed her letter, “Godspeed, No. 13. Aunt Wendi loves you.”

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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”