Tony Stewart Making Return at Richmond, Granted Chase Waiverby Kyle Pokrefky April 21, 2016 0 comments
Sidelined from his No. 14 Chevrolet since the beginning of the season, Tony Stewart has been cleared to make his return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this weekend at Richmond International Raceway.
Missing the first eight races of the season while recovering from a back injury suffered during the pre-season, Stewart received the ‘all clear’ from his doctors to return to his ride after scans from a March evaluation showed signs of a successful recovery.
“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,” Stewart said. “I want to make the most of my last season in Sprint Cup, and I’ve been on the sidelines long enough.”
The three-time Sprint Cup champion expects to ease his way back into the driver’s seat in what is to be his final season as a driver in NASCAR.
Stewart will be behind the wheel of his car throughout the entirety of the Richmond race weekend and in his car for a two-day test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway early next week. Stewart will practice and qualify at Talladega Superspeedway next weekend, but will make an early driver swap in the race, letting Ty Dillon finish the GEICO 500 for him. Following that, Stewart will run the entirety of the GoBowling.com 400 race weekend at Kansas Speedway.
“We’re taking a strategic approach to my return,” Stewart added. “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 full-time at Kansas and enjoy every moment I can in my final year of Sprint Cup.”
NASCAR also announced on Thursday morning that Stewart is due to receive a waiver for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Should he earn a win and be within the top-30 in points by the Chase cutoff in September, he may earn a Chase berth if he’s high enough in the standings.
Kyle Busch famously earned a Chase waiver after missing the first third of last season after suffering leg injuries in February at Daytona International Speedway. Busch went on a tear after returning to his No. 18 Toyota in the Coca-Cola 600, punched his ticket into the Chase, and went on to win the 2015 Sprint Cup championship.
“NASCAR received the appropriate medical clearance documentation allowing Tony Stewart to resume normal racing activities,” NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell, said. “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.”
The Toyota Owners 400 is set for a 1:00 p.m ET start on Sunday with live coverage being provided by FOX and MRN.
Photo Credit: Ron Jenkins/Getty Images