Tony Stewart will be not drive for the 54th IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Stewart has been absent from driving his #14 Chevrolet since qualifying at Watkins Glen International, and has missed the last two NASCAR Sprint Cup events.
Regan Smith, a Nationwide Series regular, guided the #14 Rush Truck Centers/ Mobile 1 Chevrolet to a 37th place finished. At Michigan International Speedway, Jeff Burton took the reins of the Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, and also went on to finish in 37th place after a broken tailpipe ended his race day prematurely. The Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet team said a crack in the tailpipe meant heat was catching the heat shields underneath the #14 car on fire.
Stewart has been on the original entry list that NASCAR released on Monday for both Michigan and Bristol, but later Stewart-Haas Racing announced Stewart would not race later in the week. Stewart-Haas Racing also said there is no timetable for Stewart’s return to his regular NASCAR racing ride and that the decision will be Stewart’s call to make.
This change pertains to Bristol only. Stewart has not yet determined his upcoming plans for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, according to the team release.
Last week, Stewart went on to cancel his racing plans at Plymouth Speedway last Saturday, and all racing outside of NASCAR have been canceled and will not continue until further notice.
Stewart, who was 19th in the points going into Watkins Glen, has now fallen to 25th in the points. Stewart currently has 537 points while Michael Annett has 364 point in 30th place. To be eligible for the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship, a driver must attempt to qualify for all 26 races prior to the Chase and remain in the top 30 in points.
But under special circumstances, NASCAR can waive the requirement as long as the driver remains in the top 30 in the standings.
If Burton were to drive to a victory in the #14 Chevrolet, the team would not be eligible for the winner’s guarantee into the Chase. Burton has made three starts for the 2014 season with his best finish (17th) coming at Las Vegas in March. Burton has one victory at Bristol in 2008, he has 40 starts with eight top-5’s and 15 top-10 finishes.
Burton said on NBC Sports Network’s ‘NASCAR America’ Wednesday evening that he was more comfortable at Bristol than he was driving last week at Michigan.
The 54th IRWIN Tools Night Race is scheduled for Saturday night, August 23 at 7:30 p.m. ET, with coverage on ABC. Qualifying for the race will be Friday, August 22, at 5:30 p.m. ET with coverage on ESPN.