Torque Tube Caused Stewart Injury
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on August 23, 2013 | 2:21 P.M. EST
Greg Zipadelli says a torque tube caused Tony Stewart's broken leg in a sprint car crash Aug. 5. (Photo: Getty Images)
BRISTOL, Tenn. - A torque tube struck Tony Stewart’s right leg, breaking both the tibia and fibula, Greg Zipadelli and Mark Martin said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
It’s the first time details of Stewart’s accident have been publicly discussed. Martin, who is driving Stewart’s car for all but one of the remaining NASCAR Sprint Cup races this season, visited Stewart earlier this week.
Zipadelli, competition director for Stewart-Haas Racing, said the torque tube - a pipe between the engine and rear end that the driveshaft spins inside - struck Stewart’s leg in the Aug. 5 crash.
“There is protection, but obviously that hoop that is there is not enough to contain it,’’ Zipadelli said.
That is the area Stewart’s sprint car team is working to make safer.
Earlier this week, Stewart told Kendra Jacobs, co-host of Motor Racing Network’s “Winged Nation’’ that he planned to race sprint cars next year and that his team was building cars for him.
Zipadelli said it was “too early to get into that stuff’’ but expects Stewart to race sprint cars again.
“I don’t think you can take Tony Stewart and tell him he can’t drive other cars,’’ Zipadelli said. “That is what makes him who he is. Can we get him to cut his schedule back? Can we get him to look at things? Can we help him with this movement of making those cars safer for everybody including himself? I think those will be the things that come in the next couple of months.
“Hopefully, he will come back here with a little bit different attitude and understanding (of) how ... we all rely on him. We are under his umbrella, and I know he will do his best.’’
A key in the coming months will be Stewart’s rehabilitation.
“I think that is part of what he will learn a little bit about how important it is to him,’’ Zipadelli said. “I really think when he comes back ... he is going to be fired up and ready to show the world that all that time he has had cooped up there will, hopefully, pay larger dividends for next year. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of changes at Stewart-Haas. There is just a lot of excitement, a lot of positive things to tun this around and to head into next year with.’’
Among the changes is that crew chief Rodney Childers said Friday morning that he will leave Michael Waltrip Racing and join SHR to be Kevin Harvick’s crew chief next season. Zipadelli also said the team continues to pursue Kurt Busch.
The move to sign Busch and give SHR four teams comes a month after Stewart said the team wasn’t ready to expand to four cars and that was a reason why Ryan Newman was not being retained after this season.
Zipadelli said co-owner Gene Haas has always been a fan of Busch, whose contract with Furniture Row Racing expires after this season, and might have found a way to finally snag the driver.
Zipadelli said the team talked last year about having Busch drive the No. 39 car instead of Ryan Newman.
“It’s really nothing that Ryan did wrong,’’ Zipadelli said. “He’s done a great job. He’s a good guy, heck of a driver. This just kind of got sprung on us 14 days ago or less. Gene just showed some interest and having the ability to put something together.’’
Haas’ company, Haas Automation, has sponsored Newman’s car in seven of the season’s first 23 races. By moving that sponsorship to for Busch and increasing the investment, the team could run a fourth car.
“We are looking to do whatever we can to make Stewart-Haas a better place to race, give our drivers better resources,’’ Zipadelli said. “Our goal is to give our teams a better product to race every week. With four good drivers next year, I think that it gives us that opportunity.’’