Tony Stewart Sidelined to Start Farewell Tour

Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart will miss the start of the 2016 season due to a back injury suffered in an all-terrain vehicle accident earlier this week.

Missing the start of the upcoming season also means that Stewart will miss what would be his final scheduled Daytona 500. Stewart is second in all-time wins at Daytona International Speedway with 19 – but the 500 win has eluded him throughout his 17-year career.

Stewart-Haas Racing released a statement via twitter on Thursday afternoon:

Fellow NSCS driver Greg Biffle was with Stewart when the accident occurred, and said he was in pain, but escaped from the buggy relatively unscathed and was talking and moving all his extremities, in an interview with SiriusXM NASCAR radio on Thursday afternoon.

This is just the latest in off the track incidents for Smoke. Starting back in 2013, he broke his leg in a violent sprint car crash, sidelining him for multiple NSCS races, before he returned at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He then was involved in the tragic event at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, where his sprint car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. in 2014

Stewart, who has been regarded as one of the fiercest competitors on and off the track, wasn’t himself after these events, and has never really regained his championship form from back in 2012 and years prior. He fell into a depression, contemplated retirement and didn’t know if he was ever going to do what he loved to do again: drive a race car for a living.

But he returned to applause of the fans and the NASCAR community, and he has been relatively headline free since then, until now.

Coming off a lackluster 2015 season, Stewart announced that 2016 will be his final season of competition in NASCAR. But due to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Smoke, his farewell tour, a tour that he has publicly said he doesn’t want, will have to wait.

Some NASCAR personalities echoed the feelings throughout NASCAR Nation when they received the news of Stewart’s injury via social media.

Early speculation is that Stewart will make his return sometime near the middle of the season, perhaps at his home track of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But Dr. Jerry Punch said in an interview with Sirius XM NASCAR that with L1 fractures, each case is treated differently.

Updates will be given when SHR announces an interim driver for Stewart and anything else regarding Stewart’s condition, as he continues his recovery in Charlotte, N.C.