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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AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”