ALBANY (AP) — The family of a young driver struck and killed by Tony Stewart’s car on an upstate New York dirt track filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NASCAR star Friday.
The lawsuit was filed as Stewart returns to Watkins Glen International on the one-year anniversary of the fatal crash.
The lawsuit accuses Stewart of gross negligence, saying he gunned his engine and put his car into a skid as 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. walked on the track after a crash at Canandaigua Motorsports Park on Aug. 9, 2014. The car struck Ward, and he was killed.
A grand jury declined to indict Stewart, who at the time called it “100 percent an accident.” A toxicology report found Ward had marijuana in his system.
There was no comment from Stewart, who was with his crew in the garage before a final practice Friday afternoon. Stewart-Haas Racing, the NASCAR Sprint Cup team Stewart co-owns, also declined comment.
Ward’s parents, Kevin and Pamela Ward, requested a jury trial seeking unspecified monetary damages, claiming wrongful death, reckless conduct, gross negligence and their son’s terror and suffering.
“Our son was truly the light of our lives and we miss him terribly every day,” they said in a statement. “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.”
There was no immediate comment from Stewart.
Stewart, who frequently races in extracurricular events as a hobby, was participating in a sprint race on a dirt track when Ward crashed into a wall after a bump with Stewart.
The lawsuit notes Stewart’s reputation for having a temper and claims that Stewart deliberately veered toward Ward after the collision.
“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,” the lawsuit states.
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