Even though Tony Stewart is sidelined with a broken leg, he doesn’t back down from challenges but the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion has a mountain to climb if he thinks he can make the Chase field for 2013. With only six races remaining in the regular season, Stewart is 11th in points and leads the Wild Card standings but assuming he misses one or more races, he’s in trouble.
As co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, the plucky driver has a lot to lose – all-important sponsor dollars and the prestige of being in the Chase field are among the conditions on the line. As the Sprint Cup Series rolls into Watkins Glen International, Stewart, a five-time race winner, was favored and his 120.4 driver rating on the famed road course leads all others.
Papis will actually have double-duty this coming weekend, and at different road courses. It will not be the first time the Italian has taken on extra challenges in his racing career. At Road America, he will be behind the wheel of a Ferrari for the R. Ferri/AIM Motorsport Racing team.
Papis recently kissed the yard of bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when he and Jeff Segal took the GT class victory in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race on the road course.
Stewart remains in the hospital as he will need surgery again. Per SHR team spokesman Mike Arning: “The first surgery was a preliminary procedure to stabilize and clean the Grade 2 injury. A second surgery will be necessary. In the meantime, Stewart will remain hospitalized for observation.”
Stewart made his name in open-wheel racing and even though sprint-car racing is considered one of the most exciting forms of racing, it is also considered one of the most dangerous. While he doesn’t race non-winged cars, he does compete in winged-sprint cars, the same variety that has recently taken the lives of Jason Leffler and Kramer Williamson.
Kyle Larson, a rising star in NASCAR and a devoted dirt-track racer, went on to finish second in the Oskaloosa race. A year ago at Stewart’s Eldora Speedway, Larson had a scary crash in a wingless car and his mentors told him to slow down or just stick to winged cars.
In 1996 at The Glen, Dale Earnhardt ignored a broken sternum and collarbone to earn the pole and finish sixth in the grueling race. Times have changed since then and whether Stewart could obtain a medical clearance would be doubtful, but the Indiana native is a true racer in every sense of the word, so it is too early to speculate.
Contenders for the coveted Wild Card spots include defending champion Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and teammate Ryan Newman. Truex and Newman have an edge as they each have a victory under their belts.