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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)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, poses with his team before his last race, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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