TALLADEGA, Ala.– Tony Stewart said how deep the race goes before the first caution will have no bearing on him getting out and giving way to a substitute driver.
During his media availability as part of a press conference with Danica Patrick, the driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet was asked if he would change his plan and run the entire race should the race go as long caution-free as it did last October.
“I still think the goal is going to be for when the first caution comes out,” Stewart said. “And if it means we go 80 laps or 100 laps or whatever, it’s not likely that the race will go that long without a caution, but if it does, the level of intensity is pretty sanitary at that point. It’s not really ramping-up yet. So, I don’t feel like there’s any danger in that. It’s later in the race when guys are really having to make things happen; that’s the part of the race when we really need to be out of the car. There will be ample time to get that caution to get us out. The good thing is that Talladega is so big that even if it’s 40 laps from the end of the race when Ty gets in it, he’s going to have enough time to do what he needs to do. Hopefully, it will happen sooner than later; and that way he can get into the flow of the race earlier than later and he’ll be fine. Everything that he’s done in our car this year has been awesome. I think he’s done a fantastic job and I think he’ll be fine this weekend as well.”
The plan is that Ty Dillon will hop into the car during the first caution of the race which will allow Stewart to be credited as the starting driver and receive the points from wherever Dillon finishes.
The decision to get out of the car stems from his doctors advising he do so to not risk re-injuring his spine.
Stewart suffered a burst fracture of his L1 vertebrae in a dune buggy wreck back in late January. After sitting out the first eight races, he made his return to competition in an 18th-place finish during last Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway. He said afterward that he was having so much fun at his favorite track.