Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart has been allowed to leave hospital and head home, almost six days after he was admitted following a four-car crash in a local racing event in southern Iowa left him with a broken tibia and fibula in his right leg.
In a post from the Stewart-Haas Racing team's official Twitter account, it was confirmed that Stewart "is out of the hospital & resting as comfortably as he can at home. Thx for the thoughts & prayers."
Stewart had initial surgery to stabilise the Grade 2 injury last Monday night and was then moved to a North Carolina hospital for a second subsequent procedure on Thursday to insert a metal rod into the fracture to promote healing. Doctors opted to keep him in for observation for several days to ensure there were no secondary infections.
Stewart's absence from this week's Cup race at Watkins Glen brought to an end a run of 521 consecutive Cup starts dating back to 1998. He was replaced in the car at short notice by Italy's Max Papis.
It's not clear how long Stewart will be out of action, but the injury already appears to have brought his hopes of making the 2013 Chase to an end. Merely missing this weekend's race the Glen was enough to dump him down six positions to 17th place in the standings, well outside the top ten and also now three spots away from qualifying via one of the 'most wins wildcards'.
The Stewart-Haas team has said that it doesn't know when Stewart will be able to make a return. Doctors have said that typically with such an injury a patient needs four to eight weeks to start to start making a return to full activity; in the meantime, the need for painkillers and blood thinners would rule Stewart out of NASCAR competition.
"I'm very, very hopeful that we get Tony back in the car shortly, maybe in a month or two, and see how it goes from there," said Stewart's co-owner in the team, Gene Haas. "They always tell you a broken leg takes anywhere from two to four months and I think you just have to go with that.
"It just depends on how fast he heals. I know he had some really good surgeons and they put all those bones back in place. Hopefully they'll heal fast," he added.
While Papis was a clear choice to sub for Stewart at a road course such as Watkins Glen, the decision over who will take over the #14 car for the rest of Stewart's enforced absence has been the centre of considerable speculation over the last week, with Nationwide Series stars Regan Smith, Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson among those being talked about. [Update: Dillon gets Michigan outing