Tony Stewart is back on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series scene. After missing three Cup races at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, Michigan International Speedway and Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway, Stewart is set to return to racing action at Atlanta Motor Speedway for Sunday night’s Oral-B USA 500, according to a release from Stewart-Haas Racing.
“Tony Stewart has received all necessary clearances required to return to all racing activities, and therefore is eligible to compete this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway,” NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell said in a press release from NASCAR. “NASCAR has remained in constant contact with his race team, and we will stay very close to this situation as Stewart returns to competition.”
Stewart was involved in a sprint car accident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York on Aug. 9 when his car struck Kevin Ward Jr. who had climbed out of his car and was on the track during a caution period. Ward died from the injuries he sustained. Stewart has since been in seclusion, canceling all racing-related activities.
Nationwide Series driver Regan Smith drove Stewart’s No. 14 Sprint Cup Series Chevrolet at Watkins Glen, and semi-retired driver Jeff Burton drove the car in the two most recent races at Michigan and Bristol.
Stewart returns to the Sprint Cup circuit 26th in the championship driver points standings with 21 starts to his fellow-competitors’ 24. He is winless, so far, on the season. According to NASCAR rules regarding Chase eligibility, Stewart will not be eligible for the Chase, even if he were to win Sunday night at Atlanta or next weekend at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, unless NASCAR offers him some kind of exemption. Rules stipulate that drivers must attempt to qualify for all races. Stewart did qualify his car at Watkins Glen, but not at Atlanta or Bristol.
Stewart has not yet spoken publicly. He is expected to participate in a press conference at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday afternoon. NASCAR President Mike Helton will also participate in a press conference Friday afternoon.