Tony Stewart has decided not to drive the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) Chevrolet at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, his team said Wednesday in an email to media members. Stewart has pulled out of the last three NASCAR Sprint Cup races after he was involved in a fatal sprint car accident that took the life of another driver.
Veteran driver Jeff Burton, a winner of 21 Sprint Cup races, will fill in for Stewart for the second straight week. Burton subbed for Stewart Sunday at Michigan International Speedway with NASCAR Nationwide driver Regan Smith getting the nod the previous week at Watkins Glen.
SHR officials said the driver change pertains only to Bristol and that Stewart’s plans for upcoming Sprint Cup races have yet to be determined. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race (500 laps, 266.5 miles) is scheduled for Saturday night.
The day after Stewart was involved in the Aug. 9 racing accident, Stewart issued a statement that said, “There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr. It’s a very emotional time for all involved, and it is the reason I’ve decided not to participate in today’s race at Watkins Glen. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and everyone affected by this tragedy.”
Burton’s performance Sunday in the No.14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS proved to be a struggle after a broken tail pipe required repairs in the garage. The team finished in the 37th spot. Burton has only competed in a handful of races this year as he prepares to transition into a broadcasting role for the 2015 season.
“This was a hard week,” Burton said after the race. “This was honestly one of the hardest weeks I’ve ever spent. Coming here on Friday and not knowing what to expect – I thought everybody did a really good job. We put a great effort out there. I did a terrible job on the restarts, but once we got in clean traffic we were maybe a tenth off the leader. We had really good pace and the car drove well. I was really encouraged by the one change we made. The car was fast.”
Smith, subbing for Stewart in the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR at Watkins Glen, finished 37th after being involved in an accident that forced him out of the race nine laps shy of the 90-lap distance.