Smoke Will Rise: Tony Stewart returns at Richmond

By David Morgan, NASCAR Writer

After missing the first eight races of the season following an off-season back injury in which he suffered a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra, Tony Stewart and Stewart-Haas Racing announced on Thursday that Stewart will be back behind the wheel of his No. 14 Chevrolet this weekend in Richmond for the Toyota Owners 400.

“As soon as the doctors said they were happy with my scans, I wasn’t going to wait any longer to get back in my racecar,” said Stewart. “I want to make the most of my last season in Sprint Cup, and I’ve been on the sidelines long enough.”

After this weekend’s events in Richmond, Stewart will head up to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a Goodyear tire test before making his way to Talladega Superspeedway next weekend. At Talladega, Stewart is scheduled to just practice and qualify the car, but due to the inherent danger associated with restrictor plate racing, he will only start the race before yielding to Ty Dillon, who has driven as a substitute for Stewart this season.

“We’re taking a strategic approach to my return,” Stewart said. “Richmond is a track where I feel very comfortable and because it’s a short track, the speeds are substantially less. The Goodyear test in Indy is sort of a controlled environment, allowing me to get more acclimated with my car at higher speeds. We’ll start the Talladega race to get the points, but understanding the style of racing and the higher potential of getting involved in an incident, we thought it was best to minimize the amount of time I’m in the car. I’ll return fulltime at Kansas and enjoy every moment I can in my final year of Sprint Cup.”

“I appreciate everyone’s patience and all the support they’ve given me the last couple of months, but the best medicine will come this weekend at Richmond when I finally get to go racing.”

In 33 career starts at Richmond, Stewart has three wins, including his first Cup Series win in 1999. Along with the win, Stewart has 11 top-five finishes, 19 top-10 finishes, 950 laps led, and an average finish of 12.7.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, also announced that Stewart would be granted a waiver from NASCAR to be eligible for the Chase.

“NASCAR received the appropriate medical clearance documentation allowing Tony Stewart to resume normal racing activities. We also have granted the request from Stewart-Haas Racing for a waiver for Tony to be eligible to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. As he begins his final season, we wish Tony the best of luck,” said O’Donnell.

Image: Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.

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