NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart during drivers introductions prior to the Samuel Deeds 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports)
Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart broke both major bones in his lower leg in a Sprint Car accident Monday night and will miss Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen.
Stewart-Haas Racing named veteran driver Max Papis on Tuesday afternoon to replace Stewart in the No. 14 Chevrolet this weekend on the road coarse.
Papis, 43, a road-course ace, tested the car for Stewart-Haas on July 30 at Road Atlanta.
Stewart broke his tibia and fibula during a Sprint Car race Monday night at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa. After being transported to a local hospital in an ambulance, Stewart underwent surgery.
Stewart remains hospitalized under observation pending a second surgery, according to the team. There is currently no timetable for the three-time champion’s return to competition.
According to NASCAR policy, a driver must be cleared by a specialist in the specific area of an illness or injury before returning to competition.
That puts his prospects of qualifying for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in jeopardy.
“Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, sustained a broken right tibia and fibula in a Sprint Car crash Monday night at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa,” Stewart-Haas Racing said in a statement.
Stewart, 42, was taken to a local hospital immediately after the accident and underwent surgery, according to the release.
SHR canceled a team test scheduled for Tuesday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Stewart currently is 11th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings with one victory, placing him in the first of two provisional Wild Card positions. Missing one race — or more — will make it difficult for Stewart to retain a Chase-eligible position and opens the door for teammate Ryan Newman, who is third in the Wild Card standings.
There are five races left before the Chase field is set at Richmond.
According to a report in the Des Moines Register, Stewart was leading the 30-lap feature of the Front Row Challenge with five laps left when Josh Higby’s car spun in Turn 4 and took out the top-three drivers in the running order — Stewart, Tasker Phillips and Tony Shilling.
Conscious and responsive after the accident, Stewart was placed on a stretcher and transported to the hospital in an ambulance.
The race continued, with Brian Brown beating NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie phenom Kyle Larson to the checkered flag.
“I didn’t see it happen,” Larson told the Register. “I just saw cars going everywhere. I had to duck through the infield, and luckily I missed it.”
A full-time competitor in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2011, Papis is winless in 92 combined starts in NASCAR’s top three national series. He has 35 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts to his credit, most recently in August 2010 at Michigan.
Papis’ notched his lone top 10 in the Cup series at Watkins Glen in 2009. He has three top fives in the Nationwide Series, the best a second-place run in 2010 at Montreal, where Papis lost a drag race to the checkered flag to Boris Said by .012 of a second.
The Italian-born driver has three Champ Car wins and two on road courses (Portland and Laguna Seca). Papis also started seven events in Formula One in 1995 with a best finish of seventh at Monza.
Most recently, Papis teamed with Jeff Segal in a Ferrari 458 to win the GRAND-AM GT classification in the July 26 Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course.