Week at a Time for Stewart-Haas
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on August 15, 2014 | 10:45 A.M. EST
Burton: "My role here is to hopefully provide a little stability, give that team a chance to have the most success they can have in a very difficult situation."
BROOKLYN, Mich. – Stewart-Haas Racing is taking a weekly approach regarding Tony Stewart’s status with Jeff Burton driving this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.
The decision not to race was Stewart's, according to Brett Frood, executive vice president at Stewart-Haas Racing.
“It will be up to Tony when he's ready to get back in the car,” Frood said. “It's been an emotional week for him. He's grieving. Anytime someone is lost, especially at a racetrack, it's tragic. It was a tragic accident, and he's dealing with quite a bit of grief.”
Stewart has not raced since he was involved in sprint car incident that killed Kevin Ward Jr., 20, last weekend at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. The Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff's Department continues to investigate the incident.
Burton said he was approached Wednesday morning if he might be available. Stewart-Haas Racing announced Thursday that Stewart would not race this weekend.
Burton outlined what he’s trying to accomplish with the team this weekend.
"My role here is to, hopefully, provide a little stability, give that team a chance to have the most success they can have in a very difficult situation," he said. "Hopefully me being here in some kind of way can help, I don't know how, but, hopefully, I can find a way to help a healing process start.
"Obviously it's an awkward situation for everybody. But there's a lot of people at Stewart-Haas Racing that work really, really hard and deserve 100 percent effort from me, and that's what they're going to get."
While Stewart will sit out his second straight Sprint Cup race, the organization is doing its best to operate in the aftermath of last weekend’s incident.
But while the last several days have been tough to deal with, team officials stressed things are moving forward from a business standpoint.
"From a sponsor standpoint, we've got the greatest sponsors in the world," Frood said. "They're very caring. They understand it's an emotional time. There's much sympathy for the family of the young man and the care for Tony. We've had a great deal of support from our partners.
"As far as getting ready for this weekend, the task at hand for Greg (Zipadelli), the rest of our crew, is to prepare four cars for our drivers and figure out how to win this weekend at Michigan."
By NASCAR rules, Stewart missing this weekend’s race would eliminate him from Chase eligibility even if he were to win before the regular season ends and remain in the top 30 of the point standings. NASCAR can grant a driver exemption in special circumstances but the team is not focusing on those possibilities.
“I'll be honest, the Chase is of the lowest priority as it relates to Tony right now,” Frood said. “As far as the Chase, the only car I have this weekend is to get Danica in the Chase.
“Right now it's about getting Tony in a better place than he is. When he's ready to do that, he'll get back in the car. Don't care about the Chase.”