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NASCAR Sprint Cup Atlanta: Stewart to make return

Tony Stewart will make his return to Sprint Cup competition this weekend for the first time since his involvement in a fatal regional racing accident.
Tony Stewart will compete in this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, his first race since his involvement in the fatal regional racing accident at New York State's Canandaigua Motorsports Park that claimed the life of fellow competitor Kevin Ward Jr.

This weekend's race will mark Stewart's first start since August 3 at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania. His place behind the wheel of the #14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet was taken at short notice by Regan Smith at Watkins Glen International, and since then by Jeff Burton at Michigan and Bristol.

No further details were given by the team on Thursday, but it was announced that a press conference will be held on Friday in which Stewart and SHR executive vice president Brett Frood will take questions from the media. It will mark Stewart's first public appearance since the accident.

After the team confirmed that Stewart would be back in action this weekend, NASCAR also issued a statement confirming that there were no problems as far as they were concerned with his taking part in this weekend's event.

"Tony Stewart has received all necessary clearances required to return to all racing activities, and therefore is eligible to compete this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's executive vice president and chief racing development officer.

"NASCAR has remained in constant contact with his race team and we will stay very close to this situation as Stewart returns to competition," he added.

NASCAR will also hold a press conference at Atlanta on Friday afternoon. Among the questions likely to be raised is whether the series will grant Stewart a waiver on the Chase eligibility requirement that a driver must attempt to qualify or to compete in all 26 races prior to the Chase cut-off which falls after next week's Richmond event on September 5.

As Stewart has missed two full race weekends since the accident at Canandaigua he would not currently be able to participate in the Chase even if he were to win either of the two remaining races. Even with a waiver, Stewart is currently in 26th place on the points meaning that a win is his only hope of making the championship play-offs, and he would also need to finish no lower than 30th in the standings after Richmond.

The official investigation into the circumstances surrounding Ward's death is still being carried out by local authorities. NASCAR has introduced new rules covering driver safety since the accident, which happened in a sprint car dirt track racing event that was not part of NASCAR's jurisdiction.



Related Pictures

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Regan Smith prepares to stand in for Tony Stewart at short notice at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 10 2014. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy.com / Get Found Chevrolet, talks with Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Rush Truck / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 21, 2014 in Fontana, California. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS, qualified sixth fastest Saturday, July 26, 2014 for Sunday`s Brickyard 400 Nascar Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, qualifies fourth Friday, July 11, 2014 for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, prepares to drive during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 21, 2012 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota Toyota, races with Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota Toyota, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cameron Hayley, driver of the #13 Cabinets by Hayley/The Carolina Nut Co. Toyota, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cameron Hayley, driver of the #13 Cabinets by Hayley/The Carolina Nut Co. Toyota, races with Erik Jones, driver of the #4 Toyota Toyota, during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Alex Tagliani, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Pro Services Chevrolet, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, lead the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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