Stewart-Haas Racing has confirmed that Tony Stewart will not be able to return to race duty for the rest of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
The three-time series champion suffered a broken right tibia and fibula in a
winged sprint car crash in a regional weekday race on August 5 at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Stewart had originally appeared optimistic of returning to the wheel of the #14 car as early as September, but has now received medical advice that he needs a considerably longer recuperation period.
"After consulting with Tony's doctors and speaking with Tony, we agreed it was best for him to focus on his recovery," said Greg Zipadelli, Stewart-Haas' competition director. "For the #14 team, our focus is on positioning them for a run at the owner championship."
That meant finding a top quality line-up of replacement drivers to take over the #14 car for the rest of the season. Zipadelli had previously stated that it was his preference to have just one or two drivers take over from Stewart in order to establish some continuity and allow the replacement to get into a rhythm and build up a strong working relationship with crew chief Steve Addington and the other members of the team.
Rumours circulating at Michigan International Speedway last weekend strongly hinted that SHR was close to concluding a deal to bring in veteran racer Mark Martin as the main stand-in driver. Martin has been driving the #55 Michael Waltrip Racing car this season for 26 of the 36 Cup races, and came close to winning on Sunday before running out of fuel two laps from the end of the race.
On Monday, SHR announced that Martin would indeed take over from Stewart for the remainder of the season, with the exception of the October 20 race at Talladega Superspeedway as Martin is no fan of the high-speed 2.5-mile tracks. Richard Childress Racing's Austin Dillon will take over the seat for that race, as he did for a solid outing at Michigan.
"We certainly appreciate Michael Waltrip Racing and Richard Childress Racing for making Mark and Austin available to us," said Zipadelli, relieved to have finally hammered out the delicate three-way negotiations to make the jigsaw pieces fall into place and give the team some stability for the remainder of 2013.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed to be out of [competition] for so long, but the team is in very good hands with Mark Martin and Austin Dillon," said Tony Stewart himself. "Mark is someone I've looked up to my entire career and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him.
"Austin is a great young talent, and he showed that Sunday at Michigan. Greg Zipadelli, Steve Addington and everybody at SHR supports them 100 percent," he stressed. "This isn't a situation anyone wanted, but we're going to make the best of it. In the meantime, my focus is on getting healthy and getting back into my Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy."