Aug 15, 2014, 10:56 AM EST
Tony Stewart will not get back in a race car until he’s ready and will make that decision solely himself, Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood said during a Friday morning press conference at Michigan International Speedway.
Stewart will miss a second straight NASCAR Sprint Cup event after the tragic accident last Saturday in a sprint car race in upstate New York that resulted in the death of a fellow racer, 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr.
“This decision (not to race this weekend) was Tony’s,” Frood said. “It’s been an emotional week for him. He’s grieving.
“He made the decision he’s not ready to get in the race car. We’ll take it week by week. It’s going to be up to Tony when he’s ready to get back into the car.”
Nationwide Series driver Regan Smith was a last-minute replacement for Stewart in last Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen. This weekend’s race at Michigan will see veteran Sprint Cup driver Jeff Burton driving Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet.
There has been no further discussion of Burton or any other driver filling in for Stewart in the next race (Bristol, next Saturday night) or beyond.
“Jeff will be the driver this weekend in Michigan,” Frood said. “We have not discussed any other races. We’ll talk to Tony. When he’s ready to get in the car, he’ll be in there, and we’ll go from there.”
SHR vice president of competition Greg Zipadelli approached Burton on Wednesday to see if he’d be willing to fill in for Stewart, if necessary.
“Greg reached out to me Wednesday morning to ask if I was interested; that started the process,” Burton said. “It was like just in case Tony decides (not to race), we didn’t know.”
Burton, who will become a full-time analyst for NASCAR on NBC next season, hopes to bring a calming and stabilizing force to the team, which is also grieving over last Saturday’s tragic accident.
“My role is hopefully to provide a little stability, give that team a chance to have the most success they can have in a very difficult situation,” Burton said. “Hopefully me being here in some kind of way, I can help find a way for a healing process start.
“I don’t know how that is, but that would be my ultimate goal for everybody. Obviously, it’s an awkward situation for everybody, but there’s a lot of people at Stewart-Haas Racing that work real hard and deserve 100 percent effort from me, and that’s what they’re going to get.”
On other fronts, Frood had the following to say:
* Where Stewart is currently: “Tony’s surrounded right now by his closest friends and family. We’re obviously in contact with him. His location is of a private nature right now.”
* The reaction of Stewart’s sponsors: “From a sponsor standpoint, we’ve got the greatest sponsors in the world. They’re very caring, they understand it’s an emotional time, there’s much sympathy for the family of the young man and they care for Tony. We’ve had a great deal of support from our sponsors.”
* This weekend’s task at hand: “As far as getting ready for this weekend, the task at hand for Greg and the rest of our crew is to prepare four cars for our drivers and figure out how to win this weekend at Michigan.”
* Stewart’s chances of making the Chase for the Sprint Cup will effectively end this weekend because NASCAR rules specify a driver must qualify for all pre-Chase races to be eligible for the playoffs. While Stewart qualified at Watkins Glen before the tragic accident, he will not qualify at Michigan.
“I’ll be honest, the Chase is of the lowest priority as it relates to Tony right now,” Frood said. “As far as the Chase, the only care I have this weekend is getting Danica (Patrick) into the Chase.
“Right now, it’s about getting Tony in a better place than he is right now. And when he’s ready to do that, he’ll get back in the car. We don’t care about the Chase (for him).”
* On media hysteria and inaccurate reporting: “We certainly understand the media has a job to do. And while there may be some irresponsible reporting, right now the focus should be on the family that’s grieving. And there’s been some focus that hasn’t been there. I’m quite certain that when we get through this that everyone will get the story from the key parties.”
* Whether this tragedy has affected the stability of SHR: “Absolutely not.”
* On how Stewart is holding up: “It’s been an emotional week for him. He’s grieving. Any time someone is lost, especially at a race track, it’s tragic. It was a tragic accident and he’s dealing with quite a bit of grief.”
Follow me @JerryBonkowski
Mar 3, 2015, 9:53 AM EST
Susie Wolff confirmed for Spain, Silverstone FP1 outings and another day in Austria.
Mar 3, 2015, 7:54 AM EST
Alonso ruled out of season opener, following medical advice.
Mar 2, 2015, 7:31 PM EST
Mercedes F1: Road to Repeat premieres this Thursday, March 5, at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Mar 2, 2015, 5:16 PM EST
Jam-packed schedule for inaugural GP of NOLA weekend.
Mar 2, 2015, 3:00 PM EST
Toyota Racing’s trio of Davidson, Buemi and Nakajima tour Tokyo.
Mar 2, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
RHR’s image on Indianapolis 500 tickets to be unveiled on Thursday.
Mar 2, 2015, 1:00 PM EST
With 114 cars total and a manufacturer overload, things look promising for Pirelli World Challenge heading into 2015.
Mar 2, 2015, 11:00 AM EST
F1 and IndyCar kick off; NHRA, sports cars and ladder series also have a busy month of March ahead.
Mar 2, 2015, 9:30 AM EST
Mercedes leads in pace, and lap count as F1 preseason testing is in the books for 2015.
Mar 2, 2015, 8:59 AM EST
Mick Schumacher to advance from karting into cars this season.
Mar 2, 2015, 8:21 AM EST
With potential Indy Lights success there for the taking, Max Chilton instead opts for the LMP1 route with Nissan.
Mar 2, 2015, 7:45 AM EST
Max Chilton and Alex Buncombe round out the Nissan LMP1 lineup; Chilton full season and Buncombe at Le Mans.
Mar 2, 2015, 7:34 AM EST
Red Bull takes off the camo, comes back in color.
Mar 1, 2015, 5:00 PM EST
Here’s the final recap from the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya as pre-season testing comes to a close.
Mar 1, 2015, 3:30 PM EST
Team principal Maurizio Arrivabene calls for “concentration and discipline” at Maranello in the lead-up to the start of the 2015 season.
Mar 1, 2015, 3:00 PM EST
The Team Penske pilot turns 34 years old today.
Mar 1, 2015, 2:30 PM EST
Maldonado is still able to find the positives out of his final test run before the beginning of the 2015 season in Australia on March 15.
Mar 1, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
Should Mercedes drop the ball in 2015, Williams could be the team to pick up the pieces and snatch a race win.
Mar 1, 2015, 1:30 PM EST
17-year-old will become the youngest driver in the history of F1 to start a race in Australia.
James Courtney wins season-opening V8 Supercars feature in Adelaide; ex-NASCAR driver Marcos Ambrose 12th
Mar 1, 2015, 1:00 PM EST
Ambrose cracks Top 10 on feature grid, but fuel strategy hinders an otherwise decent run for him.
- Fernando Alonso ruled out of Australian Grand Prix 0
- Mercedes F1: Race to Repeat: Teaser clips and preview (VIDEO) 0
- F1, IndyCar seasons finally premiere in 2015’s version of March madness 0
- F1: Barcelona second test wrap, and 2015 test times cumulative roundup 0
- Michael Schumacher’s son Mick to race in ADAC F4 championship this season 3
- Barcelona F1 2nd Test Paddock Notebook – Sunday 1
- F1 pre-season testing ends with Bottas fastest for Williams 1