The star driver's injury away from his full-time Sprint Cup series commitment sparked controversy.
Tony Stewart had become one of NASCAR’s elder statesmen, with a total of 521 consecutive starts from the 1999 Daytona 500 until the second Pocono round of the Sprint Cup Series, until he was sidelined with serious injuries on Aug. 5.
The driver was brought to hospital where doctors learned that he had broken both his tibia and fibula in his lower right leg.
“Smoke” had to under go two surgeries in three days, one of which saw a metal rod inserted into his leg.
Eleven days later, the driver announced the injuries would sideline him for the remainder of the 2013 Sprint Cup season, with Mark Martin and Austin Dillon filling in the number 14 car.
The injuries, and the fact he got them during a race away from the Cup Series, ignited a debate within the media, fans and other drivers and teams. Many observers thought Stewart should reduce the number of non-Cup races he took part in. Should drivers in the top tier series risk a potentially serious sidelining injury that could cost him or her vital points in the championship, and that all-important sponsorship money? The debate continues today.
Stewart is expecting to make a full recovery in time for the season opening Daytona 500 in February.
Despite the time off, Stewart and Gene Hass had a busy season, expanding their operation to 4 cars, bringing Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch on board for next year.
During the awards banquet held at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, Stewart was awarded the Myers Brothers Award, voted on by the National Motorsports Press Association for contributions to the sport.
Having sat out much of the season, Stewart was utterly surprised at the honor.
“I thought I was just getting a free dinner here and a trip to bring (crew chief Matt) Borland out here to get his award,” Stewart said. “But it was very unexpected, that’s for sure. I’m very humbled by it. I’m not sure I deserve it. What an honor. I’m very glad I came out now, for sure. “It caught me off guard. I wasn’t prepared for anything like this, that’s for sure. It made my whole week – my whole week.”