The promised update on NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Tony Stewart brings both good and band news for “smoke” fans. While he will make a full recovery; the driver of the #14 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing will miss the start of the 2016 NASCAR season and the Daytona 500 on February 21.
Stewart’s racing team Stewart-Haas Racing issued a statement on Thursday informing fans that the driver of the #14 Chevrolet who is often referred to as Smoke had suffered a spinal column – vertebrae – injury as a result of an accident while riding an ATV – All Terrain Vehicle – on the sand dunes in California on Sunday. While Stewart was able to move his arms and legs after the accident, reports are that Stewart was in a great deal of pain.
Stewart has a burst fracture to his first lumbar vertebrae. A forced fracture is a severe compression or crushing of the vertebrae. According to Spine Universe sometimes surgery is not necessary for such an injury; but in Stewart’s case surgery was required to repair the damage. Spine Universe notes that when surgery is required it may involve spinal fusion with rods, screws, and hooks to hold everything together properly.
A forced fracture is most often seen after a vehicular accident or after falling from some height.
Stewart was flown from a California hospital to a Charlotte area hospital on Tuesday and the surgery was performed on Wednesday. No details of exactly what the surgery entailed have not been released.
Spine Universe states that in cases of non-surgical treatment, recovery takes from 8-12 weeks with physical therapy to follow. Currently there is no timetable for how long it will be before Stewart can return to his #14 race car.
The 2016 NASCAR season is to be Stewart’s last as a Sprint Cup driver. Saying that the decision was his alone, the three time Spring Cup champion announced last September that he would be stepping away from the car at the conclusion of this season. Stewart has not ruled out racing in other formats and has mentioned a possible return to Sprint car racing – something he loves doing but has not since the death of a fellow racer in 2014 at a track in the Finger Lakes region of New York.
NASCAR opens the new season next week in Daytona with Speedweeks and the first race of the season when the drivers compete in the annual “shootout”.
Stewart-Haas Racing is working to find a replacement for Stewart in the #14 Chevrolet; but have not made any announcements yet.
Clint Bowyer has been named as the driver who will take over the 14 for the 2017 season, but is not available to substitute for Stewart since he has a permanent ride for the upcoming season.
The Indiana native came to NASCAR in1999 after a racing career in the Indy Car Series. He is a man who will race anything on wheels as long as he can be behind the wheel on a track. On the rare off week, most drivers would take advantage of the time to wind down, spend time with family, and just be happy to have a short break in a long season; but not Tony Stewart, he could always be found at a track somewhere ready for a race. When he missed 15 races in the 2013 season, it was due to fractures in his lower right leg sustained running in a Sprint car race.
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