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Stewart’s Cup Absence Could Be A Lengthy One

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 7 2013

Tony Stewart won't be back in the driver's seat any time soon. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Greg Zipadelli, competition director for Stewart-Haas Racing, said that driver Tony Stewart will be out of action for weeks, but he does know exactly how many weeks.

Zipadelli participated in a teleconference with the media on Wednesday and his message was that there is plenty of hope about the three-time Sprint Cup champion’s immediate future but very few answers about it.

“Well, I don’t think we have a timeline right now,” Zipadelli said. “I think Tony has one more surgery that needs to be addressed. I think at that time in the next 24 to 48 hours we will have a much better idea of exactly what the healing process will be and will be able to do a better job of – is it six weeks or is it longer? Honestly we really do not have an answer for that right now. As soon as we do, we will try and do a good job of keeping everybody updated of what it looks like.”

Also up in the air is finding a replacement driver – or drivers – for Stewart.

Max Papis will be in the No. 14 SHR car for this weekend’s road course race at Watkins Glen. But after that, Zipadelli said, the situation is TBD.

“As far as next week and on,” he said, “we’ve got a few candidates and we’re talking to a few people. We’ve got a lot of people that have obviously reached out. We’re not sure if we can put one person in until Tony gets back or we’re going to have to do multiple people.

“Our main priority was this was such short notice, and it was to get Max in here yesterday, get the seat and all the things that we needed to change in this car and get this car headed to Watkins Glen this afternoon, take care of all the stuff that we’re doing now, and then we’ll get behind some closed doors and kind of really decide who will be the best candidate for the 14 car and SHR to try and maintain what we can in owner’s points. That’s all I have for you right now.”

Stewart was injured when he wrecked while driving a 360 winged sprint car at a dirt track in Iowa on Monday night – a bit more than 24 hours after he had driven in the Cup race at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania. Stewart reportedly made contact with back marker and his car flipped. When it finally stopped, Stewart had two broken bones in his leg.

On Tuesday, Stewart had surgery on the injury.

The timing of the accident sent Stewart’s Cup situation into chaos.

“It’s taken us all day yesterday – we were in Atlanta for the tire test – had to wake up pilots, get on a plane yesterday morning, fly home,” Zipadelli, who was Stewart’s crew chief when Stewart won his first Cup championship for Joe Gibbs Racing, said. “We didn’t get to the shop until 8:30 by the time we landed. Honestly we were just a little bit behind all day, and Watkins Glen and dealing with our sponsors and making sure that they were all on board and doing everything we can to make the best of a bad situation. So like I said, as soon as we get done with this, we’ll start working on the next few weeks.”

Stewart was 11th in points after Sunday’s race at Pocono, and on the bubble for making the Chase. He had one victory so he was also in contention for a wild card berth to the 12-driver, 10-race playoff.

On Wednesday, Zipadelli said making the Chase and, thus, taking a shot at a four championship, is now likely out of reach.

“I think obviously now that the 39 (teammate Ryan Newman) is our only chance” for making the Chase, Zipadelli said. “We will do whatever we can to help.”

Papis was testing Stewart’s car at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Monday. His plan for the coming weekend was to drive a sports car in the Grand-Am Rolex race at Road America in Elkhart Lake.

The plan, obviously, has changed.

“I was ready, and here at Stewart‑Haas Racing we had actually everything organized for me to go and run the Grand-Am race there in Elkhart Lake,” Papis said. “We had a plane organized and everything. But first of all, I need to say thanks for Remo Ferri Racing. I talked to Remo yesterday. He’s a good friend of mine for many years. And I told him I was going to actually be at the track tomorrow testing, go back to Watkins Glen on Friday and Saturday, and fly back with Boris or someone back for the race.

“But he told me that he felt that it would have been a better thing for me to stay focused and help Stewart‑Haas Racing in this great opportunity for me and in this difficult circumstances.

“In one way I was a little sad because I feel that I’m an old style guy. I’m one of these guys that ‑‑ I feel like there are only a few left, like Stewart, like me, like maybe Mario Andretti, where you go and drive a Sprint Cup car, you go and drive a sports car, you go and drive a midget the day after, and that’s a little different. So I’m sad I’m not going to be there, but I want to thank them for the opportunity and that they are going to let me stay focused on this and helping Stewart‑Haas Racing.

“I guess that I need to find myself something to do in the afternoon of Saturday because when the qualifying is finished, maybe there’s not going to be much to do. I might just maybe go and watch the GRAND‑AM race on TV or something like that.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 7 2013
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  • Josie says:

    Papis seems like a truly nice and very gracious man…no matter what the outcome at Watkins Glen SHR should be proud and grateful to have someone like Max drive the 14 car. Hope Stewart heals quickly.. But I also hope…since his season is pretty much at a standstill…he takes the time to let himself heal properly and not rush back behind the wheel before his leg is ready. I’ll miss seeing Tony on the track…but I’ll be rooting for Papis this weekend…and any 14 driver as the season progresses….