Tony Stewart will make his return to racing on Sunday during the Oral-B USA 500. After missing three weeks following an incident that took the life of Kevin Ward in a sprint race, Stewart will again get behind the wheel of his No. 14 Chevrolet.
Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon believes getting back in the car is the best thing for Stewart.
“I sent him a text as soon as I found out he was coming back,” Gordon said. “I’m very supportive of having him back. I know based on watching the press conference (Friday afternoon) how emotional this has been for him. I do think that the best thing for him is to be in that race car.”
As for that rule saying a driver must attempt the car in all 26 races leading up to the Chase to be eligible, NASCAR granted a waiver something that Gordon was okay with.
“I think the whole intent of eligibility for the Chase is so that somebody just doesn’t go take a vacation after winning a few races,” Gordon said. “That’s the way I look at it. It’s not for unforeseen circumstances to prevent you from going out and competing in the Chase. They want the teams and the drivers who’ve earned their way in it and deserve to be in it. And if they win a race, then I believe they should be in it.”
Too far back to race his way in via points, Stewart will need to win this weekend at Atlanta or next weekend at Richmond to qualify for one of the 16 chase spots.
While many others sidestepped questions about NASCAR’s decision to grant Stewart a waiver, Brian Vickers agreed with Gordon’s views.
“I’m glad that NASCAR saw and understood the circumstances,” he said. “As someone who has been out of the car several times for medical incidents, I’m glad to know I’d have a chance to be back in the Chase. They set a precedent with Tony. As someone who has missed races, I think it’s a good one.”
Stewart has won three times at Atlanta. He will start 12th in Sunday evening’s race.