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Jim Utter, Charlotte Observer

Tony Stewart’s 2013 NASCAR Season Could Be Cut Short

Tony Stewart remains in a Des Moines, Iowa, hospital following a violent wreck Monday night in a Sprint car race that may cut short his 2013 NASCAR season.

Stewart, a three-time Cup series champion, sustained a broken right tibia and fibula in the accident which took place at Southern Iowa Speedway, a dirt track in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

Stewart was leading the 30-lap American Sprint Car Series feature when a lapped car spun in front of him. Stewart hit the lapped car and flipped.
He was transported by ambulance to a local hospital then airlifted to another facility in Des Moines, where he underwent surgery early Tuesday morning.

A statement released Tuesday by Stewart-Haas Racing said Stewart would require a second surgery and remain in the hospital under observation.

His fractures were classified as “Grade 2,” which refers to open fractures with laceration injuries, moderate tissue damage and possible contamination of the wound.

Stewart’s planned test Tuesday at Atlanta Motor Speedway was canceled and the team confirmed road racing ace Max Papis would drive Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet in Sunday’s Cup race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

The team has made no contingency plans beyond this weekend’s race.
Stewart posted the following message to his Facebook account on Tuesday afternoon:

“I told someone to go get my phone or else I was going to get up and get it myself. Finally got reconnected to the world and just want to say thank you for all the prayers and well wishes. My team will remain strong and I will be back.”

The wreck is Stewart’s third in a Sprint car in as many weeks.

Former Cup champion and Fox Sports TV analyst Darrell Waltrip said Stewart’s serious injury could be ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ when it comes to NASCAR team owners allowing drivers to venture to other forms of motorsports.

“When an injury happens to a driver of Tony’s magnitude – one of the sport’s most visible superstars – such as when Dale Earnhardt’s death spawned safety innovations, everyone takes a closer look,” Waltrip said.

“We already were questioning the wisdom of racing in other series, especially sprint cars. But I think Tony’s injury probably is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Some owners and drivers now might decide it’s too risky and curtail this.”

There are 15 races left in the 2013 Cup season. After his ninth place finish in Sunday’s race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Stewart was 11th in the series standings.

Five races remain before the 12-driver Chase for the Cup field is set. As of now, Stewart would have qualified for one of the two wild card spots. Once Stewart sits out a race, he’ll lose likely any chance at making the Chase this season.

Just this past weekend, Stewart offered a vigorous defense of his frequent visits to dirt tracks across the country in addition to his NASCAR obligations.

Stewart barrel-rolled his car several times last week in wreck in a Sprint car race in Ontario, Canada.

“You guys need to watch more sprint car videos and stuff. It was not a big deal,” Stewart said at Pocono. “It's starting to get annoying this week about that, so that was just an average sprint car wreck. When they wreck they get upside down like that. That was not a big deal.”

Papis, who tested Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet at Road Atlanta earlier this summer, has made 35 career starts in the Cup series, with a career-best finish of eighth in 2009 at Watkins Glen.

He has competed in Formula One, Indy car, sports cars and other NASCAR divisions, including the Nationwide, Trucks and Canadian Tire series.