If Tony Stewart couldn’t have bad luck, he wouldn’t have any at all.
Stewart already ran his final Daytona 500 and didn’t even know it. A burst fracture in Stewart’s back will keep him out of the Daytona 500 and an unknown chunk of the 2016 Sprint Cup season. The move is crushing for Stewart; here’s a look at who else is impacted in this NASCAR recap.
Win: Clint Bowyer
Bowyer has a contract to replace Stewart in 2017. Regardless of who borrows Stewart’s ride and what he or she does with it, Bowyer is secure for next year. If Stewart was right and the team is ready for a major rebound, that security for Bowyer is golden at the moment.
Lose: Stewart Haas Racing
Let’s assume Stewart was ready for a rebound; how amazing would the story and morale be for their co-owner to possibly win a race and make the Chase. Kyle Busch pulled off a miracle to make the Chase after missing 11 races. Let’s hope Stewart can return soon.
The other challenge is who fills the ride? Tom Jensen outlined several names, but there is no Mark Martin or Jeff Burton to steady the ship. SHR also doesn’t have a development driver to be a logical upgrade; if Ty Dillon gets the ride and does well, he takes that knowledge over to Richard Childress Racing. So that leaves Justin Allgaier, Elliott Sadler, Reed Sorenson, Sam Hornish?
On one hand, NASCAR at least has a precedent to give Stewart a chance to make the Chase. That sliver of hope will make for quite the story should Stewart have a final summer run in him. Stewart also should make a full recovery; this is a setback and not a tragedy.
On the on the other hand, Stewart was one of, if not the, top stories of the 2016 Daytona 500. Stewart has great history at the track but never could win the Great American Race. Anything is possible at the track, and the moment when Dale Earnhardt won still sends chills down my spine.
NASCAR fans don’t have the chance to hope for that anymore. It’s the latest setback for a future Hall of Famer who deserves to go out strong; let’s hope that can happen at some point this 2016 Sprint Cup season.