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

57 Comments

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.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

Ker Robertson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?