Family filed wrongful death suit against NASCAR star following death of Kevin Ward Jr. at Canandaigua Motorsports Park

CANANDAIGUA — Every day is still a struggle without her son, according to Pamela Ward, the mother of Kevin Ward Jr., who was killed nearly three years ago on the track of Canandaigua Motorsports Park. 

NASCAR star Tony Stewart accidentally struck and killed Ward during a race on Aug. 9, 2014, after the 20-year-old climbed out of his car and onto the dirt track to confront the NASCAR veteran. 

“It’s heart-wrenching,” Pamela Ward said on Thursday. “This is literally my worst nightmare.” 

In September 2014, a grand jury decided Stewart was not criminally responsible for Ward’s death. However, the parents of Ward blamed Stewart for their son’s demise and filed a wrongful death suit against him in 2015. 

On Wednesday, Stewart filed a motion asking a federal judge to dismiss many of the claims in the civil suit that has been filed against him.

In the court paperwork filed by attorneys in the Stewart camp — which can be viewed at, the website of NewsChannel 9 in Syracuse — it states Ward acted recklessly in exiting his vehicle and walking toward Stewart’s car that was still in motion the night of the tragedy.

That risk comes aside from the inherent dangers acknowledged by legal documentation when race car drivers participate in professional racing events, the paperwork states.  

In pushing for a dismissal, the paperwork further references the presence of marijuana that was discovered in Ward’s system following his death. The paperwork states that “impairment promotes more impulsive behavior and less inhibition.”

The incident unfolded the night of Aug. 9 on the 14th lap of the race at the Canandaigua raceway.

Ward’s car spun out and bumped into the wall after being struck by Stewart’s vehicle. The 20-year-old then climbed out of his vehicle and walked onto the track, gesturing for Stewart. 

Ward was nearly hit by another passing car before being struck by Stewart’s No. 14, which appeared to fishtail from the rear and hit him. Ward died instantly. 

In September 2014, during the course of the grand jury presentation, approximately two dozen witnesses testified, including race car drivers, racetrack employees and volunteers, two accident reconstruction experts, medical personnel and a number of police officers. Also presented were photographs and voice recordings, including the widely circulated video posted to YouTube and a recording from the racetrack.

After Stewart was cleared by the grand jury, Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo said in a press conference that Ward’s judgement was impaired by drugs when he existed his car following the crash with Stewart. Tantillo further said that the videos did not show any act of irrational driving by Stewart up until the point of impact with Ward. 

Stewart has said that the crash was an accident. 

According to the Ward family, they believe Stewart tried to scare Ward when he approached his vehicle on the track and accidentally hit him in the process. 

On Thursday, Pamela Ward declined to discuss the pending case, which is expected to be addressed this year in court. The Wards are seeking unspecified damages. 

Attempts to reach the Ward family’s attorney Johnny Cargill, of the Lanier Law Firm in Texas, went unanswered on Thursday. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.