"We felt he acted reckless that night and he should've been held responsible," said Pam Ward.
After years of heartache and legal proceedings, Pam and Kevin Ward Sr. are finally ready to speak out for the first time since Ward Jr. was hit and killed by Tony Stewart in Canandaigua in 2014.. The publicity and attention that has come along with the tragedy has been overwhelming.
"Our whole life just changed," said Pam. "Like you said within moments. It just happened so fast. I think that night, I think for the first couple days we were just in shock. It took days for it to really sink in.
We’ve often said that that we wish it wasn’t Tony Stewart. We wish it was anybody else in this world because with him being who is, a NASCAR guy, we have all this publicity that’s forced on us. Just losing a son is hard enough without having to deal with everything else on top of that. Definitely couldn't grieve the way normal people would have."
"If it had been anybody else that we had raced against weekly, the accident wouldn't have happened and my son wouldn’t of got out of the car," added Ward Sr.
"The hate mail we got, in the emails we got and all that from people who didn't have a clue on what happened that night, but just sticking up for him that was tough," he continued.
The Wards were hoping the justice system would have their back, but after a grand jury declined to charge Stewart and they were forced to settle the civil suit, telling their story is how they're seeking justice for Kevin.
"We've said all along we don't feel that Tony intentionally meant to hit Kevin. We've said that from day one and we will hold to that. I don't think he did. But I do think he meant to throw dirt on him and those were the actions that took my son's life," said Pam. "In our case I think we were able to prove through our reconstruction expert that when Tony did that, it was intentional he tried to throw dirt on Kevin. We know what he did that night but he wasn’t charged criminally and that’s been one of the hardest things I’ve had to deal with because if we were able to prove this in our case and we have the evidence that it was done intentionally, He meant to throw dirt on Kevin why wasn’t he charged? That’s a question I don’t think we’re ever going to have answered. I feel like it’s unfair. I feel that the reason he didn’t get charged is because of who he is. Because he’s Tony Stewart. I think if it would’ve been any other driver any other racer I truly believe that person would be in jail right now. "
According to the Wards, Tony has not reached out to the them at all.
"No, he has not. I don't know if him saying sorry would change anything."
In the public eye, Kevin is criticized for two things: getting out of the car during the race and having THC in his system. His parents addressed both issues. They said this was the first time Kevin had ever gotten out of the car in his five years of racing. They also don't believe Kevin was impaired that night.
"Between the good starting position and his car running the way he wanted it to, he had a really good chance of winning that race and I think that was one reason why he was so mad and got out of his car," answered Kevin's mom. "And the last thing he said to us before he went out on the track was, he looked to my husband and he said 'it's going to be a good night pa. That was the last he spoke to us.
People need to understand my son getting out of the car was not what caused his death, but only allowed Tony the opportunity to do what he did to him."
"Tony was never drug tested. My son didn't have an option whether he was tested or not, they just did it. He stated that Kevin was impaired that he had to have smoked five hours prior to racing I'll never believe that. We've never had any indication that he would ever do something like that before a race."
During the grand jury proceedings, the Wards agreed that it felt like their son Kevin was on trial rather than Stewart.
"Oh definitely," said Ward Sr. "I'll tell you the District Attorney called me and he says 'well Tony's not gonna be charged. We put it in front of the grand jury and they couldn't believe that Kevin got out of his car.' I said it wasn't about my son it was about what Tony Stewart had done."
From the beginning, the Wards felt like Kevin never got a fair shake. Tony was never drug tested and his car was never impounded for further investigation.
"Right from the start, when he was involved the investigation was all one-sided. The accident happened on Ontario County Fairgrounds the Ontario County Sheriff investigated the whole thing there were no state troopers. There were issues that definitely were right in our eyes.
"There were eyewitnesses that seen what happened and were calling the sheriffs department to tell their story. One of them was a witness for us that was on the safety truck. He called the sheriff's department and they told him we got all the stories we needed, we don’t need anymore. And here he is saying it was intentionally done and I was right there behind the accident."
"One investigator asked if I had any questions and I said well I do have a question. I’m 56 years old and any accident that I’ve ever heard of they impound the car and drug test the driver. I said why wasn’t it done that night ? She said truthfully, we got over to Tony’s pit and there was like three black SUV's there he had all of his guys surrounding him. She said it was so chaotic over there we couldn’t even do a proper investigation. She said as bad as this sounds, I don’t mean to upset you, she says I knew that night and a lot of other guys and our deputies involved, knew that Tony wasn’t going to be charged that night," said Ward Sr.
Since the grand jury neglected to charge Stewart, the Wards felt their only option was to file a civil suit not for the money but to hold Stewart accountable.
According to the Wards, they had to settle.
"Why we say they forced us to settle is about a month before the trial, they told us they were going to drop us if we didn’t settle. Our own lawyers."
With everything behind them, the Wards are trying to move on, one day at a time.
"We’re still dealing with it every day. I don’t know if I’ll ever have any closure," said Pam. "I’m still trying to wrap my head around the way it ended. We’re doing everything we can do for Kevin. We've had a scholarship fundraiser every year for him since the year he’s passed. We’ve had a great amount of support from other racing families, friends of ours, and family. There’s a lot of people out there that know what happened and they’ve been there for us and if it wasn’t for those people, I don’t know how we would’ve ever gotten through this."
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