Friday, August 9, 2013

Stewart out of No. 14 car indefinitely after second surgery

Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Tony Stewart is out of his No. 14 Chevrolet indefinitely as he recovers from his second surgery after breaking his right leg in a sprint car crash earlier this week, Stewart-Haas Racing announced Thursday.

The three-time Sprint Cup champion and team owner underwent a successful procedure Thursday, three days after breaking his tibia and fibula at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa. A specialist in North Carolina inserted a metal rod inside the tibia, that stabilized and cleaned the Grade 2 injury, the team said in a press release.

Stewart was leading the American Sprint Car Series feature with five laps remaining when a lapped car spun in front of him. Stewart struck the lapped car and flipped.

Stewart remains hospitalized for observation.

Max Papis will replace Stewart in the No. 14 car during Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International. Interim drivers for upcoming races have yet to be determined, the team said in the release.

In a teleconference Wednesday, SHR Director of Competition Greg Zipadelli said the team has a few drivers in mind to occupy the No. 14.

"As far as next week and on, we've got a few candidates and we're talking to a few people," Zipadelli said. "We've got a lot of people that have obviously reached out. We're not sure if we can put one person in until Tony gets back or we're going to have to do multiple people."

The team's main priority was to secure Papis for Watkins Glen and tailor the racecar accordingly, Zipadelli said.

Once that's taken care of, "then we'll get behind some closed doors and kind of really decide who will be the best candidate for the 14 car and SHR to try and maintain what we can in owner's points," Zipadelli said.

With one win this season, Stewart was 11th in the Sprint Cup point standings heading into Watkins Glen, holding down the first of two wild card spots. With five races left to determine the Chase for the Sprint Cup lineup, Stewart will likely miss his shot at a fourth championship as he recovers from his injuries.

Zipadelli said Wednesday he talked with Stewart, who was in "good spirits" but "a lot of pain."

"He was worried about what everybody thought and apologetic and feels like he's letting everybody down here," Zipadelli said. "At the end of the day the reason we're all here is because of him, so I know he'll get back in it and make it up to us."

Ironically, Stewart's loss could be outgoing teammate Ryan Newman's gain. After his Brickyard victory, Newman sits 15th in the points, just outside the second wild card position currently held by Sonoma winner and 14th-place Martin Truex Jr. With Stewart possibly out of the Chase picture, Truex could step into the first wild card spot, with Newman taking over the second wild card. Newman will be out of a ride with Stewart-Haas Racing after the 2013 season when Kevin Harvick joins the team.

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