Papis to Drive for Stewart at Watkins Glen
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on August 6, 2013 | 4:42 P.M. EST
Max Papis, who tested Tony Stewart's car last month at a road course, will compete for the injured driver this weekend at Watkins Glen. (Photo: Getty Images)
Max Papis will drive for Tony Stewart this weekend at Watkins Glen International, as Stewart recovers from injuries suffered in a sprint car crash, the team announced Tuesday afternoon.
Stewart suffered a broken tibia and fibula in his right leg. He underwent surgery early Tuesday after an accident in a sprint car race Monday night at Southern Iowa Speedway. That surgery served as a preliminary procedure to stabilize and clean the Grade 2 injury. A second surgery will be necessary. Stewart will remain hospitalized for observation, the team stated.
Stewart was leading Monday’s American Sprint Car Series feature when the lapped car of Josh Higday hit an infield tire and collected Stewart, Tasker Phillips and Tony Shilling. Stewart’s car went flipping.
With Stewart out, Stewart-Haas Racing skipped Tuesday’s Goodyear tire test at Atlanta Motor Speedway that it had planned to do.
Stewart-Haas Racing did not announce who would be in Stewart’s car after Watkins Glen.
Papis tested Stewart’s car July 30 at Road Atlanta to help the team prepare for this weekend. Papis has driven two Nationwide races this season for Richard Childress Racing. He placed 17th at Road America in June in his most recent race. His last Cup race was at Michigan in Aug. 2010.
Papis has been racing this season in the GRAND-AM GT class. He and teammate Jeff Segal are tied for sixth heading into this weekend’s race at Road America. Papis had planned to commute between Road American and Watkins Glen this weekend but said in a Wednesday teleconference that his GT team will allow him to skip its race and compete only at Watkins Glen for Stewart's team.
Stewart’s absence takes him out of the Wild Card chase. That will move Martin Truex Jr., and Ryan Newman, Stewart’s teammate, into the Wild Card spots since they are the only other drivers between 11th and 20th with a victory this season.
Stewart’s absence could help defending series champion Brad Keselowski (12th in points) and Kurt Busch (13th) make the Chase. Neither has a win. Keselowski is within seven points of 10th, the final automatic Chase spot, and Busch is 11 points from 10th. Without Stewart, that’s one less driver either has to beat.
This will mark the second time Stewart has missed the Chase in his career. He missed it in 2006, becoming the only reigning champion to miss the Chase.
Although Stewart will miss the Chase, his team could still compete for the owner’s title. That championship is determined the same way as the driver’s crown. Should Stewart’s car finish in the top 10 in points or qualify for one of the two Wild Cards, it would be eligible to compete for the owner’s championship regardless of how many different drivers race the car.
By missing this weekend’s race at Watkins Glen, Stewart’s streak of 521 consecutive Cup starts ends. It was the third-longest streak among active drivers. Stewart had started every Cup race since becoming a rookie in 1999.
Monday’s crash happened about a week after Stewart flipped in a sprint car race in Canada. He said last weekend at Pocono that questions about his extracurricular racing were becoming “annoying.
“You mortals have got to learn,’’ Stewart said at the time. “You guys need to watch more sprint car videos and stuff. It was not a big deal. It’s starting to get annoying. That was just an average sprint car wreck. When they wreck, they get upside down like that. That was not a big deal.’’
Monday night’s wreck proved to be different. Drivers offered well wishes to Stewart on Twitter.
“Thinking about Tony this morning,’’ Kasey Kahne wrote. “Heal up quickly buddy! Leading A-main when crash happened. All ‘smoke’ does is go fast.’’
Clint Bowyer wrote: “Hate it for Tony, he does what he loves and has single handedly sold out crowds at short tracks all across the country for years. That’s impact.’’
Teammate Danica Patrick wrote: “Such a sad situation with tony. He was racing cars he loves. When he’s healed, it will be like he never missed a beat. Heal fast big brother!’’
Updated at 11:30 a.m.