Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart underwent surgery Monday night to repair a broken tibia and fibula in his right leg after he was involved in a wreck during a sprint car race at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa, per David Caraviello of NASCAR.com.
This injury will force Stewart out of this week’s race at Watkins Glen at the very least, per Jeff Gluck and Andy Hamilton of the USA Today, and will cost the veteran any hopes of making the Chase for the Championship this season.
Stewart currently sits 11th in the points standings, with only the top 12 making NASCAR’s postseason. The No. 14 team will have another driver fill in while Stewart is on the mend, but he will not earn points in the individual standings.
After having one of the worst starts to a season in his career (22nd in points after nine races), Stewart had won a race at Dover International Speedway in June and was slowly ascending up the standings.
There is no doubt that Stewart will work feverishly to get back in action—the three-time champion also is part owner of Stewart-Haas Racing—but the damage in the standings may already be done by the time he is healthy enough to return.
If Stewart misses two races or more, the lack of points accumulated over that span would likely knock him out of the top 15 and could force him as far back as the mid-20s in the tightly-packed standings.
While this situation is devastating to the fierce competitor, it could be the best-case scenario.
The veteran driver loves to race in any class and on any circuit (competes in dirt track races across the country exactly like the one he suffered his injuries in and even owns his own track), but falling out of contention for a championship will force Stewart to take his recovery slow.
He will want to jump right back into the cockpit of his Sprint Cup car, but the team must be able to convince him to take the proper time to heal in order to be ready for the assault on the 2014 championship.
Stewart will ultimately have the last word as the team owner and his own boss, but he has built an organization of people around him that should be able to break the news that his championship chances are gone while still hyping the possibilities of next season.
Expect to see Stewart back in the No. 14 car this season, but only after he is fully healthy and his championship aspirations are long gone.
Stats and standings via NASCAR.com.