Tony Stewart broke his right leg on Monday evening during a sprint car race in Iowa, which leaves the seat open in his Chevrolet with only five races remaining till the championship field is set. Max Papis will be driving the No. 14 this weekend at Watkins Glen, but Stewart will likely be out multiple races into the Chase.
Greg Zipadelli, Competition Director for Stewart-Haas Racing talked with the media on Wednesday morning to discuss Stewart going forward.
There is no timeline for Stewart’s return as of now, but there could be in the next 48 hours. He said at that time the team could know what the healing process would likely be and he would relay that to everyone else.
“Tony is still in Iowa, and I talk to him. We get reports. He’s doing okay. It’ll be another, like I said, 24 to 48 hours before we have all the details.” Zipadelli said.
Papis is racing this weekend at Watkins Glen, but Zipadelli said there is no announcement as to who will race going forward.
“As far as next week and on, we’ve got a few candidates and we’re talking to a few people. 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.”
“Our main priority was this was such short notice, and it was to get Max in here yesterday, get the seat and all the things that we needed to change in this car and get this car headed to Watkins Glen this afternoon, take care of all the stuff that we’re doing now, and 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. That’s all I have for you right now.”
Papis said that he is going to do the best he can, given the circumstances that he is in the car. “I look at this like an amazing opportunity in a terrible circumstances, and that’s it. I’m just going to go out there and enjoy every lap I have, enjoy every second I have with the guys, and keep that seat warm for Smoke until he’s going to come back.”
Zipadelli said that the team will evaluate what races Stewart competes in going forward, but there will not necessarily be any changes. Stewart competes in around 70 sprint car races atop his NASCAR schedule each year.
Zipadelli said that although Stewart being out that the team will be focused on getting the No. 39 of Ryan Newman in the Chase.
“Well, I mean, obviously it’s a huge letdown to everybody at Stewart-Haas, knowing that we were making some great strides. I think we’ve had some drastic improvements in the performance on the racetrack. I felt like we were peaking at the right time with two race cars having an opportunity. It’s a huge disappointment. But we’ll try to do our best to take that disappointment and turn it into a positive push for the 39.”