WASHINGTON D.C.: Retiring American racer Tony Stewart, the only driver to win both IndyCar and US stock car season titles, will not compete in this month’s Daytona 500 after undergoing back surgery.
A first career victory in the Florida oval classic, the opening event of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) campaign, was among the goals Stewart had set for this season.
But the three-time NASCAR season champion (2002, 2005, 2011) and 1997 IndyCar champion suffered a fractured vertebra in a non-racing accident on Sunday (Monday in Manila) on an all-terrain vehicle driving over sand dunes near the Arizona-California border.
Stewart, 44, is expected back behind the wheel after he recovers but there is no timetable for his return.
Stewart-Haas Racing, which has not named an interim driver for Stewart’s car in the February 21 Daytona race, revealed his status on Thursday (Friday in Manila), the day after the operation for a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra.
He was flown from Arizona to a Charlotte, North Carolina, hospital where the surgery was performed. Stewart was awake and alert while being evaluated and able to move his limbs.
After this season, Stewart will be replaced in the Chevrolet car No. 14 by compatriot Clint Bowyer.
Stewart made 17 Daytona starts with a top finish of second in 2004. In five Indianapolis 500 appearances, his best showing was fifth in 1997, a year after he started from the pole in his Indy 500 debut.