Drivers React To Stewart's Return, Chase Waiver
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on August 29, 2014 | 6:13 P.M. EST
Tony Stewart made his return Friday and NASCAR announced it would grant him a waiver for the Chase should he win either of the next two races. (Photo: Getty Images)
HAMPTON, Ga. - NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers welcomed Tony Stewart back to the track Friday with some raising questions about the “precedent” series officials set by granting Stewart a waiver for the Chase should he win either of the next two races.
Stewart has missed the past three Cup races since he hit and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during an Empire Super Sprints race Aug. 9 at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. The Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff’s Department announced Friday that its investigation into the incident will “continue for at least another two weeks.’’
NASCAR President Mike Helton said that series officials would allow Stewart to make the Chase if he won this weekend at Atlanta or next weekend at Richmond. NASCAR’s rules states that any driver who wins, is in the top 30 in driver points and has attempted to qualify for each event would be eligible for the Chase. Stewart did not attempt to qualify the past two weeks at Michigan and Bristol. Stewart is too far behind to make the Chase via points.
Asked about NASCAR granting a waiver for Stewart if he wins, Greg Biffle said: “I don’t really have a comment on NASCAR’s decision.’’
Jimmie Johnson said NASCAR’s decision is “setting a precedent. We’ll see what other extreme circumstances develop in future years and how NASCAR looks at that. I’m happy that they’re sympathetic to situations and look at it and are giving a team and driver that opportunity.’’
Brian Vickers, who has missed races because of blood clots, applauded NASCAR’s decision to grant Stewart a waiver, but wonders what NASCAR will grant waivers for in the future.
“I’m happy to know if I was out of the car for some reason that I’d get a chance to get back in the Chase,’’ Vickers said. “There’s a lot of circumstances that I don’t know exactly how they’d handle them. Obviously they’ve set a precedent here with Tony. One day I’d like to have kids. Does that mean I get to be at the hospital with my wife if she’s having our first child even if it means missing a race but I can still make the Chase?’’
Jeff Gordon said it’s not too concerned about Stewart receiving a wavier.
“I think the whole intent of eligibility for the Chase is so that somebody doesn’t go take a vacation after winning a few races,’’ Gordon said. “(NASCAR) wants the teams and the drivers that have earned their way in it. I believe if they win a race they should be in it.’’
While there were questions on that issues, drivers were happy to see Stewart back at the track.
“We knew he would be back,’’ Johnson said. “Then to see what he was just doing in practice, the speed shows that he’s emotionally ready to be back in the car.’’
Denny Hamlin admits it is “surprising” Stewart is back as soon as he is.
“It just tell you how big a competitor he is and wants to get back in the racecar and feels that probably is the best thing for him. We’re excited to have him back. It will be a welcome sight on the racetrack.’’