In some very shocking news, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart has announced that he will return to his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet this weekend at the Richmond International Raceway. Yes, “Smoke” is back earlier than expected as he will return to his seat after missing the first eight races of the season.
Stewart, 44, suffered a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra on Jan. 31 while riding an all-terrain vehicle in a California desert. The original diagnosis gave no timetable for a return as he had to have surgery and several months of rehabilitation.
Most thought he wouldn’t be back until May/June, but here he is ready to go this weekend at Richmond.
His rehabilitation only lasted a month as he’s been cleared by doctors to resume to his car.
Brian Vickers and Ty Dillon split time in his season during the first eight races as now Stewart will embark on his last full-time season beginning this weekend.
Stewart, is 112 points behind 30th place in the points standings and 182 out of 16th (the final spot for the Chase). He will likely need at least one win and gain 112 points on the 30th place spot in the standings over the next 16 races to become Chase eligible.
Stewart, has won in nearly three years, so he’s going to need to end that drought in the next 16 races to be a part of NASCAR’s playoffs in his final season. It’s possible as Kyle Busch not only missed the first 11 races last year, he won multiple times and made his way into the Chase. He also won the championship, so it’s possible for Stewart to make the Chase still as he’s missed three fewer races than Busch did.