For the second straight week, NASCAR will be in action without Tony Stewart.
The lead driver at Stewart-Haas Racing said through a team press release that he will not be driving the No. 14 Chevrolet at this weekend’s Pure Michigan 400 at the Michigan International Speedway.
One week ago, Stewart was racing a sprint car at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park, part of the Ontario County Fairgrounds, a track just north of Watkins Glen International in upstate New York, where the Sprint Cup Series was racing that same weekend. Stewart had an on-track incident with 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. which sent Ward into the outside wall.
Ward got out of his car to possibly approach Stewart under caution, and he was clipped by the right-rear tire of Stewart’s car, tossing him approximately 50 feet. He was taken to the hospital, but passed away later that night.
Stewart returned to Watkins Glen after talking with authorities, but the morning of the race he made the decision to step out of the car. Regan Smith, who races in the Nationwide Series for JR Motorsports, was brought up to run Stewart’s car.
Authorities investigating the incident have not charged Stewart with any crime, and have said as of this time there is no evidence showing any foul play was involved. The funeral for Ward was this week and was held at his high school. Stewart has continued to cooperate with investigators, and authorities are estimating the investigation could take another two weeks.
Canandaigua Motorsports Park will reopen this week for racing one week after the incident.
For Sunday’s race, veteran driver Jeff Burton, who retired from full-time driving after last season, will step behind the wheel of Stewart’s car.
Stewart currently sits 21st in the standings, and NASCAR rules dictate that to be Chase eligible, one must attempt to qualify for each of the 26 races leading into the Chase and be in the top-30 in points. However, in rare instances, NASCAR will waive this rule as long as long as the driver in question is still in the top-30. This rule was used earlier this year when Denny Hamlin had to sit out at the Auto Club Speedway due to what appeared to be illness, later to be found as a piece of metal in his eye.
It is unclear of Stewart’s plans past this weekend nor is it certain of when he will return to the circuit.