Rudd Ready To Relieve Stewart

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HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. - Joe Gibbs Racing driver Tony Stewart will not require surgery for the fractured right scapula he sustained in an accident during Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.

Stewart's No. 20 Chevrolet suffered a right front tire failure on lap 33 of the 400-lap race, sending the No. 20 machine into the SAFER barrier on the outside retaining wall of turn one. Stewart was running in the 25th position when the accident happened.

"Tony sustained a non-displaced fracture at the tip of his right scapula," said Dr. Jerry Petty, a neurosurgeon who has consulted with many NASCAR drivers. "It is a non-surgical injury that only time and rest can heal."

While Stewart's fractured right scapula won't require surgery, it will limit his participation in this weekend's NEXTEL Cup event at Dover International Speedway.

Veteran NASCAR driver Ricky Rudd has been secured by Joe Gibbs Racing to serve as the relief driver for the No. 20 team this weekend at Dover. Rudd, a winner of 23 NEXTEL Cup races - four of which came at Dover - will practice and qualify the No. 20 Chevrolet while Stewart will start the 400-lap race. Rudd will be on standby in the pit area to relieve Stewart at any point during the event. By starting at Dover, Stewart will receive all points toward the NEXTEL Cup driver's championship.

"Tony's injury is unfortunate, and we are going to do everything we can to get him healed up quickly," said J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing. "Tony is as tough as they come, but we aren't going to take any chances on making his situation worse.

"We're very appreciative of Ricky Rudd for being able to drive the No. 20 car at Dover. He's a proven winner who will allow us to stay in contention for the championship."

Stewart is currently fourth in the championship point standings, 231 points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson. Stewart is a two-time Nextel Cup champion, having won the title in 2002 and 2005.

"Tony's our driver and we'd love to have him in the car, but we want him to be 100 percent, not just for one race but for the rest of the season," said Greg Zipadelli, crew chief for the No. 20 team. "We'll do what we have to do until he heals up. This is a strong race team that's no stranger to adversity, so I know we'll make the best of this situation at Dover and in the weeks to come."

Al Shuford, a certified athletic trainer formerly with the NFL's Carolina Panthers, will work with Stewart to get him ready for his limited participation at Dover and what is expected to be his full participation during the Nextel Cup race weekend at Pocono (Pa.) June 9-11. Shuford joined Joe Gibbs Racing in October 2000.

"Basically, we're just going to work with Tony to make him comfortable," said Shuford. "As Dr. Petty said, Tony's injury is something that only time and rest can heal. But we can help speed up that timetable with a rehabilitation program specific to his injury and his profession."

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