Me, the dirt reporter just participated in a NASCAR teleconference for the first time in almost a year, with Greg Zipadelli from Stewart Haas Racing and Mark Martin, in regards to Tony Stewart’s SEASON ending injury. I sat here and thought and thought about how to put that so that it did not get misconstrued, in the back of my mind there was a voice that said people are going to turn everything around to suit themselves do the best you can. So I want to tell you all that Greg Zipadelli was very specific in his statement that Tony Stewart would be back for the Daytona 500 if not a little bit before. Probably for Mid January testing at Daytona. He was also very specific when he said, “Mark was Tony’s first choice as a driver replacement.”
Mark Martin. said, “The amount of cooperation that was required to make this happen in such a short period of time was amazing and a testament to the amount of respect that the industry has for Tony Stewart.”
Now the synopsis. Zippy was asked three times about the Kurt Busch rumors. He said point blank “at this time we are not talking to any other drivers. Our focus is on getting Mark in the 14 and to Bristol and getting the 39 another win and into the Chase.” Now let me sum that up for you folks….If you are not talking to other drivers it is a little hard to be signing one for a fourth team. He said, “Obviously if the right opportunity were to present we would certainly look at our resources accordingly. ” So for those who are all up in arms about the supposed Kurt Busch deal. From Zippy’s mouth to the worlds ears.
Zippy also said the decision was made to keep Stewart out the rest of the season to allow him to heal and go through the rehab process that is necessary to insure his health and his future. He did not at any time say that Stewart was happy about it only that it was for his own good basically.
There are a lot of pieces that have to come together yet for Steve Addington and the team. There are seats to be fit. Explanations on the differences in procedure from one team to another. There are discussions about set ups and driver wants and needs. There is the telling test to the medal of the team on Friday when Mark Martin crawls on board the Bass Pro Shops #14 Chevy for the first time. The tasks ahead for Addington and Zipadelli and the entire SHR team are monumental. But all believe one thing it is a win-win situation. Believing is two thirds of the battle.
Tony Stewart is a racer. To the bone and the rod has been in his body long enough that it too is also now a racer. This can not possibly be easy for him. Dale Earnhardt once said the most difficult thing he ever did was crawl out of his car and watch another man climb in. Stewart is living that now. Pain can be more than physical and sometimes the most excruciating pain is emotional and intellectual. There are no pills for that. The only resolution to that pain is time and a return to normal. Tony Stewart will recover and he will return to his team and his seat. He will race again with the same gutsy determination and skill that he has always had. #SmokeWillRise. Until then Stewart choose a driver whose skills he respects and whose experience can do nothing but make his team better and stronger for his return.
Whatever, the 2014 rumors maybe, they are just that rumors. Rumors that can not be confirmed do not warrant our concern or room in our press kits.