How many races Stewart will miss still up in air
Tony Stewart can do pretty much what he wants when it comes to racing minor-league open- wheel sprint cars. Not having a boss at NASCAR’s highest level and being wealthy gives one that luxury.
But, now that Stewart has broken his leg so badly in a sprint-car race that he is going to miss more than one race, ending his hopes of making the Chase for the Championship in one of his Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chevrolets, SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli is sure the subject will be broached with the boss about putting not only himself but also the company at risk by competing in a form of racing in which drivers are more open to serious injury because the cars are open cockpit and tend to flip.
What effect the discussions will have on Stewart cutting back on his desire to race on short tracks?
“We all know Tony loves to do those races,” Zipadelli said in a conference call. “We know that that’s his golf game, that’s his hunting, his fishing, all the things that the rest of us do. You know, there is a difference in the amount of responsibility we have and obligations to other people, and that’s where I think that’s kind of where it gets sticky.”
The obligations include not only the team’s employees but also sponsors who paid to advertise on a car driven by Tony Stewart, not a substitute.
“I think it makes him better at what he does here, but it obviously leaves the door open for a situation that we’re in now,” Zipadelli. I think that as many races as he’s run in the past, we’re probably lucky that this is the first time we’re dealing with this to be perfectly honest with you. You know, we’ll do our best at Stewart‑Haas to put pieces together and sit down and evaluate it. . .That doesn’t mean anything other than we will talk about it, we’ll discuss it and we’ll try and do what’s best for Stewart‑Haas and our partners in the future.”
Zipadelli was unsure how long Stewart will be sidelined, saying that will be determined after Stewart has a second surgery to repair his broken tibia and fibula.
“I think at that time in the next 24 to 48 hours we will have a much better idea of exactly what the healing process will be and will be able to do a better job of ‑‑ is it six weeks or is it longer? Honestly we really do not have an answer for that right now. As soon as we do, we will try and do a good job of keeping everybody updated of what it looks like,” Zipadelli said.
Max Papis, a veteran road racer from Italy who hasn’t been able to get a stock-car career off the ground, will sub this Sunday on the road course at Watkins Glen, where Stewart would have been one of the favorites.
Why Papis, who doesn’t have much experience at the Cup level? He’s already been in Stewart’s Watkins Glen car, having tested it at Road Atlanta.
“(Stewart’s crew chief) Steve Addington and the 14 car wanted to do a Road Atlanta test about two weeks ago, and we reached out to Max, and he was able to do it,” Zipadelli said. “Tony had some commitments and was going to come down the second day.
“They had the car that we’re racing, the primary car at Road Atlanta. We tested it with Max. He did a really good job. Steve felt like he had a good relationship with Max. They communicated well. So in all honesty it was a perfect shoe‑in for us, because as I said, we had been working together recently.”
Papis is going in without visions of possibly turning a good showing into a way into Cup.
“I’m 42 years old,’ Papis said. “I’m proud of what I’ve done so far in my career. Obviously this, I don’t look at this like a career‑changing something that is going to — I look at this like an amazing opportunity in a terrible circumstances, and that’s it.”
As far as subs after Watkins Glen, Ziapdelli said those are to be determined.
“As far as next week and on, we’ve got a few candidates and we’re talking to a few people,” Zipadelli said. “We’ve got a lot of people that have obviously reached out. We’re not sure if we can put one person in until Tony gets back or we’re going to have to do multiple people.”