Tony Stewart will return the drive the #14 Bass Pro Shops/ Mobil 1 Chevrolet this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the 55th Annual Oral-B USA 500 to be help on Sunday, August 31. Sunday will be Stewart’s first competition race since the fatal on-track collision that killed sprint car driver Kevin Ward on August 9th at Canandaigua Motorsports Park.
Stewart missed the last three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Watkins Glen, Michigan International Speedway, and Bristol, and his team relied upon substituted drivers, Regan Smith at Watkins Glen and Jeff Burton at MIS and Bristol, while Stewart has been absent.
NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell said in a statement: “Tony Stewart has received all the necessary clearances required to return to all racing activities and therefore is eligible to compete this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. NASCAR has remained in constant contact with his race team and we will stay very close to this situation as Stewart returns to competition.”
No word from either NASCAR or Stewart-Haas Racing on whether Stewart had requested a waiver to become eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
NASCAR’s cutoff for the 10 race Chase is set after completing the race at Richmond International Raceway. If Stewart applies and is granted a waiver from NASCAR to be eligible, Stewart would need a victory. NASCAR’s policy is that drivers must at least attempt to qualify each weekend, which Stewart missed both at MIS and at Bristol.
If Stewart does not qualify for NASCAR’s version of the playoffs, this will mark the second consecutive year in NASCAR that Stewart will miss out on his bid for the championship. After breaking his leg in a sprint car Stewart was sidelined for the final 15 races of the 2013 season, only returning to his #14 Cup car for the Daytona 500 in February after three surgeries and several months of rehabilitation.