Brian Vickers Will Replace Injured Tony Stewart at Daytona

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIFebruary 10, 2016

Tony Stewart is recovering from a fractured vertebra, so Brian Vickers will take his place in the Sprint Unlimited race at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday as Stewart-Haas Racing announced on Friday.

The Associated Press' Jenna Fryer first reported on the expected NASCAR lineup change Wednesday.   

Stewart injured himself while riding an all-terrain vehicle on vacation on the West Coast, according to a news release from Stewart-Haas Racing. This upcoming season is meant to be the 44-year-old veteran's last.

NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon, who retired after the 2015 Sprint Cup campaign, had invited Stewart to the excursion that led to his injury and commented on the situation, per FoxSports.com's Jared Turner:

When we got there, he was laying on his back outside the car...It was pretty obvious that he was in a lot of discomfort. I'll tell you, he's one tough guy, man. Because you knew he was in pain, but he never complained. He never said one thing, other than, "It's my lower back." My gosh, he's so tough. I would have been screaming like a baby.

Per Turner, SHR will officially announce Stewart's replacement during a Friday press conference.

The accident Stewart went through is especially untimely considering he's claimed the Sprint Unlimited checkered flag three times in his distinguished career, per FoxSports.com's Tom Jensen. He underwent surgery last Wednesday and, per Stewart-Haas Racing, is expected to make a full recovery.

No timetable has been established for Stewart's return. If Vickers will indeed be Stewart's replacement, it's unclear as to whether he will be a stopgap option or more of a long-term fill-in driver.

Health issues of his own prevented Vickers almost entirely from racing in 2015. As Fryer pointed out, he dealt with blood clots and couldn't race while being treated for them. He made only two starts last season and has undergone multiple procedures to address blood clots and heart problems since 2010.

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