By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
It’s not the news that NASCAR fans wanted to hear, but indeed NASCAR will kick off Tony Stewart’s final season without the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion behind the wheel, according to a statement from Stewart-Haas Racing on Thursday.
The statement from the race team read as follows:
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, sustained a burst fracture of the L1 Vertebra in an all-terrain vehicle accident Sunday while vacationing on the West Coast.
Stewart was transported to a local hospital following the non-racing accident and promptly evaluated. He was awake and alert throughout the process and able to move all of his extremities.
Stewart flew to North Carolina Tuesday evening and was admitted to a Charlotte-area hospital for further evaluation. On Wednesday, he underwent surgery.
The subsequent recovery period means Stewart will miss the beginning of the Sprint Cup season. A timetable for Stewart’s return has not been determined, but he is expected to make a full recovery and return to the No. 14 Chevrolet in 2016. Plans for an interim driver have not been finalized.
This incident is the latest event in a now multi-year string of horrid luck for Stewart. In 2013 he fractured the tibia and fibula in his right leg after a spectacular crash in a winged sprint car at Southern Iowa Speedway. The crash forced Stewart to miss the final 15 Sprint Cup Series races that year.
In 2014, Stewart was involved in a tragic accident at Canadaigua Speedway, in New York. After making contact with 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr.’s car, Stewart was confronted by Ward on the track. Stewart drove by the accident scene and never saw the young driver approaching his vehicle. As Stewart rode by he made contact with Ward, killing the driver instantly.
Stewart would miss three Sprint Cup Series races while dealing with the grief of the incident.
Fast forward to today; this latest incident was just weeks away from what would have been Stewart’s 18th and final attempt at winning the Daytona 500, now it appears Stewart will end his NASCAR career without a Harley J. Earl trophy. Tribute Racing will update this story with any more news as it comes in.
Image: NASCAR Media Group