Following the death of sprint car racer Kevin Ward Jr. after being hit by another race car driven by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series three-time champion Tony Stewart Aug. 9 at Canadaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York, Stewart’s return to racing is unknown.
Stewart is on the entry list for Sunday’s race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., but whether or not he’ll actually be behind the wheel of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet is not known at this point.
“The decision to compete in this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Michigan will be Tony’s, and he will have as much time as he needs to make that decision,” Stewart’s public relations representative Mike Arning said in an email to the Sporting News. “It is still an emotional time for all involved, Tony included.”
NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Regan Smith filled-in behind the wheel of the No. 14 on Aug. 10 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, the day after he drove his own No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevy at the track in Nationwide competition.
Stewart is currently 21st in the Sprint Cup Series points standings and is winless on the season, so a shot at the Chase would be unlikely without a win in the four races that remain prior to the Chase cut-off. Stewart qualified his car on Saturday morning for the Watkins Glen race, so he remained Chase-eligible, despite not racing on Sunday, as rules stipulate that drivers must attempt to qualify for each race. If Stewart were to return and win before the Chase cut-off, he would need to get an exemption from NASCAR to compete in the Chase if he were to sit out the complete Michigan race weekend, including Friday’s qualifying session.
This upcoming weekend, the Nationwide Series will be racing at the road course at Mid-Ohio in Lexington, Ohio, on Saturday, so if Smith is, again, called upon to drive Stewart’s car, he’ll have to travel between race weekends at Mid-Ohio and MIS. It’s doable, as Sprint Cup qualifying is scheduled for Friday, with the race on Sunday. The Nationwide schedule at Mid-Ohio has both qualifying and racing scheduled for Saturday. There may, however, be another driver called on for Sprint Cup practice on Saturday, even if Smith races the car on Sunday.
Stewart has since cancelled plans until further notice for extracurricular racing activities, primarily sprint car racing. Those original plans included a sprint car race in Indiana this week.
As far as the ongoing investigation into the fatal incident at Canadaigua goes, Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff Philip C. Povero reported that there no facts, so far, that would support criminal charges against Stewart, according to a report from FOXsports.com. Results from Ward’s autopsy was also made public on Monday, and cause of death was determined to be massive blunt trauma.