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Stewart revved up on eve of return to racing
RACE DAY LINKS: Starting lineup " Full Sunday schedule " Every paint scheme RICHMOND, Va. -- Tony Stewart was smiling, friendly and even a bit chatty talking with crew members as he left his Richmond International Raceway garage stall long after most drivers had called it a day following final practice for Sunday's Toyota Owners 400 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The feeling he conveyed Saturday morning was unmistakable. He is happy to be back and there genuinely appears no one more excited to take this weekend's green flag. And it's a good bet he'll receive quite the ovation from the Richmond crowd when he's introduced. Stewart will start his No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet 18th on the 40-car grid -- his first start since the 2015 Sprint Cup Series finale in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway . He has spent the first eight races of the 2016 season healing from a broken back -- an injury sustained in an all-terrain vehicle accident on Jan. 31. In an interview with FOX before the race, Stewart was at ease and smiling, saying the conditions were perfect for his return -- the race is at Richmond, his favorite track, it's in the daytime and the track will get hot, leading to plenty of sliding. "I just expect to go do what I always do," Stewart said. "Just get in and do the best I can." Stewart surprised the racing world this week announcing his return to Cup competition via Twitter on Thursday. Well, the long wait is over. I'll be back in my @ Mobil1 Chevy this weekend at Richmond. I can't wait to race again #SmokeWillRise — Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) April 21, 2016 There has been a lot of welcoming for Stewart this weekend at Richmond. Although he is co-owner of the four-car Stewart-Haas Racing team and has been at several races in his ownership role, there was no mistaking his eagerness and energy as he returned to work as a driver. And the feeling was mutual, as NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty showed by embracing the three-time champ in the garage. Stewart didn't have any formal media sessions at Richmond, but addressed his whirlwind weekend in a tweet on Sunday morning. It's been overwhelming this weekend with friends, drivers, crew members, and officials welcoming me back as a driver. Makes me smile — Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) April 24, 2016 After making his first start of 2016 here at the .75-mile track, Stewart will qualify and run opening laps next week at Talladega Superspeedway before having Ty Dillon replace him on the 2.66-mile track's high banks. In between, Stewart is scheduled to participate in a tire test at his "home" track, Indianapolis Motor Speedway , in preparation for his final Brickyard 400 on July 24. NASCAR granted Stewart a waiver, giving him an opportunity to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup if he wins a race and climbs to 30th in the points standings by the end of the Sept. 10 regular-season finale in Richmond. All the drivers within the top 30 in points with a victory automatically earn a Chase bid. If 16 drivers don't have wins, then the Chase positions go in order to those ranked highest in points among the top 30. "We are glad to have him back," Joey Logano said Friday. "The number 14 has been out there every week but Tony hasn't been in it so it is nice to have Tony back out in his final year. "I can imagine he wants to go out on a good note and it is nice to have him back in the car and be in that position where he loves to be and try to end his career on a high note." Richmond has historically been a good venue for Stewart. He has three wins here, 11 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes in 33 starts. His first career Cup victory was in 1999 at Richmond.
Stewart embraced, supported by drivers in return
RELATED: Full Stewart coverage " Drivers react to Stewart's return RICHMOND, Va. -- The feeling around the NASCAR garage at Richmond International Raceway on Friday was both unanimous and magnanimous. Tony Stewart 's return to Sprint Cup Series competition this weekend was the big news of the week, possibly the year and he was greeted by welcome text messages, friendly pats on the back, and lots of smiles and goodwill. NASCAR legend Richard Petty, whose team's car was parked in the garage stall next to Stewart's, sought Stewart out and embraced him. By the time Stewart, 44, climbed into his No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Friday morning's opening practice, many of his competitors had stopped by to shake the three-time champ's hand or wish him well in his first racing weekend since the 2015 season finale. Doctors cleared Stewart to compete this weekend after an eight-race absence while his body healed from a broken back -- an injury he suffered during an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident just before the season began. RELATED: Stewart's return is the talk of the garage Stewart broke the news of his return himself on Twitter Thursday saying, "Well the long wait is over. I'll be back in my @ Mobil1 Chevy this weekend at Richmond. I can't wait to race again." Then he added, "The Dr's said my scans ‘looked much better than they thought they would after 3 months.' So they cleared me." He will start Sunday's Toyota Owners 400 from the 18th-place on the grid -- his position in the only practice on a day shortened because of rain. But the weather was the only downer on a day dominated by a warm and enthusiastic welcome back for Stewart. "I don't know about from the NASCAR standpoint, but from a competitor's standpoint Tony is one of the fiercest competitors in the sport so to have him there and have someone to battle against is fun," Carl Edwards said. Stewart's Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick won the pole for Sunday's race thanks to a chart-topping run in Friday's only practice and it certainly sets the stage for a grand return of the team's namesake. Stewart's team confirmed their leader is re-energized and enjoying the positive reinforcement throughout the garage and in the grandstands. "It's been interesting just for the fact that I came to Stewart-Haas Racing to race with Tony, and obviously it's been an in-and-out of the car situation for the last two and a half years," Harvick said. "So, to see where he was from a personal standpoint over the time from when he got hurt and everything that happened, and see his interaction from the owner's standpoint over the last several weeks has been very interesting to me, just to see how engaged he was and how excited he was and how relaxed and into what was going on." And his fellow competitors want to see "Smoke" go out strong. "This is a retirement season for him and it was a little bit delayed, but he's now going to some of the these race tracks for the final time and I know just in general, Tony has been around and traveling each week to the race and tracks and been very hands on with his race team," Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin said Friday. "It's a great season and I would love to see him make a Chase push if he can and end on a good note."
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Tony Stewart will return to track at Richmond
RELATED: Full Stewart coverage Three-time NASCAR premier series champion Tony Stewart will return to competition this weekend at Richmond International Raceway , ending a season-opening run that saw the 44-year-old sidelined due to a back injury sustained in late January. Stewart made the announcement Thursday via his Twitter account. Well, the long wait is over. I'll be back in my @ Mobil1 Chevy this weekend at Richmond. I can't wait to race again #SmokeWillRise — Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) April 21, 2016 The Dr's said my scans "looked much better than they thought they would after 3 months". So they cleared me #SmokeWillRise — Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) April 21, 2016 Thanks for everyone’s support & well wishes. @ Mobil1 @BassProShops @RushTruckCenter @Code3Associates @CocaColaRacing @TeamChevy — Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) April 21, 2016 Later Thursday, NASCAR announced that Stewart had been granted a waiver for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , and is eligible to qualify for the postseason. The surest way to do that is win a race, and get into the top 30 in points. "NASCAR received the appropriate medical clearance documentation allowing Tony Stewart to resume normal racing activities," NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said. "We also have granted the request from Stewart-Haas Racing for a waiver for Tony to be eligible to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . As he begins his final season, we wish Tony the best of luck." The Indiana native is co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing , a four-team NASCAR Sprint Cup Series organization that also fields entries for 2014 series champion Kevin Harvick , 2003 champ Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick . Brian Vickers and Ty Dillon have filled in as driver of Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet this season during his absence. Vickers was initially scheduled to be in the car this weekend as the series heads to Richmond for Sunday's Toyota Owners 400 (1 p.m., FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). MORE: Drivers react to Stewart's return to racing Stewart will also represent SHR at a Goodyear tire test April 26-27 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway , and will practice and qualify his car next weekend at Talladega. He will start that race, but then yield the car to Dillon. "We're taking a strategic approach to my return," Stewart said in a team release. "Richmond is a track where I feel very comfortable and because it's a short track, the speeds are substantially less. The Goodyear test in Indy is sort of a controlled environment, allowing me to get more acclimated with my car at higher speeds. We'll start the Talladega race to get the points, but understanding the style of racing and the higher potential of getting involved in an incident, we thought it was best to minimize the amount of time I'm in the car. I'll return full time at Kansas and enjoy every moment I can in my final year of Sprint Cup . "I appreciate everyone's patience and all the support they've given me the last couple of months, but the best medicine will come this weekend at Richmond when I finally get to go racing." Team officials announced Feb. 2 that Stewart had sustained a back injury in a non-racing accident on Jan. 31 while driving an off-road vehicle. He was transported to a local hospital on the west coast, diagnosed with a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra and eventually transported to a Charlotte, N.C.-area hospital. According to Stewart, doctors inserted two rods and three screws to stabilize the injured area of his back. He was eventually cleared to return to the race track, but not as a competitor, where he has helped oversee the operations of the SHR organization. Stewart announced Sept. 30, 2015 that the 2016 season would be his last as a driver in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series and that Clint Bowyer would take over his role behind the wheel of the No. 14 entry beginning in 2017. Stewart currently has 48 career victories. He won two championships with Joe Gibbs Racing (in 2002 and ’05) and edged Carl Edwards for the 2011 title while at SHR. MORE: Photos of Tony through the years
SHR reveals Stewart's throwback Darlington look
'Smoke' will run classic No. 14 scheme at Bojangles' Southern 500 BUY: Stewart throwback paint scheme and more " GO: Buy tickets to the event REVEAL: Retweet if you love @TonyStewart 's #14 @BassProShops Classic/ @ Mobil1 Chevy for @TooToughToTame in Sept. pic.twitter.com/3oY2nWCWjn — Stewart-Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) May 26, 2015 So, what do you think, race fans? With Darlington Raceway throwing itself back to the old days with a traditional Labor Day Bojangles’ Southern 500 (Sept. 6, 7 p.m. ET, NBC), Tony Stewart will run the retro paint scheme – one of many we're likely to see. His Stewart-Haas Racing teammate and the defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick unveiled his throwback scheme for Darlington earlier this month. The only question that remains now -- with that race being the penultimate chance for a driver to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , will we will see a Throwback Tony Stewart (currently winless) come through in the clutch to race in the postseason? FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Day before big announcement, 'Smoke' chills at zoo
Tony Stewart takes in the sights at Memphis zoo with Mobil 1 partners Today, Tony Stewart is expected to announce his retirement from NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition following the 2016 season -- at least that's what sources told NASCAR.com. So one day before the big announcement, how was 'Smoke' getting prepared? By visiting the zoo. In Memphis, Tennessee. At the Memphis Zoo with our friends from @ Mobil1 pic.twitter.com/DywMfL31Nv — Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) September 29, 2015 Maybe that actually makes sense. A throng of media will descend on Stewart-Haas Racing 's shop later today, so that will be a zoo in its own right.
Mobil 1 Driver Of The Race: Charlotte
Kyle Larson won the History 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway making him this week's Mobil1 Driver Of The Race.
Green means go for inspection
GarageCam host Matthew Dillner asks No.99 Nationwide Series Engineer Tyler Allen to explain NASCAR's laser inspection process for the Mobil1 Question Of The Week.
Lineup for the AAA 400
Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch will be on the front row at Dover RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize Pos Car Driver Team 1 4 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet 2 18 Kyle Busch Interstate Batteries Toyota 3 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Freight Toyota 4 2 Brad Keselowski Wurth Ford 5 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald's Chevrolet 6 24 Jeff Gordon Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet 7 42 Kyle Larson # Target Chevrolet 8 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet 9 15 Clint Bowyer 5-hour Energy Toyota 10 3 Austin Dillon # Dow Chevrolet 11 55 Brian Vickers Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota 12 5 Kasey Kahne Farmers Insurance Chevrolet 13 10 Danica Patrick GoDaddy Chevrolet 14 20 Matt Kenseth Home Depot Husky Toyota 15 14 Tony Stewart Mobil1 /Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet 16 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 17 9 Marcos Ambrose Twisted Tea Ford 18 99 Carl Edwards Fastenal Ford 19 27 Paul Menard CertainTeed/Menards Chevrolet 20 31 Ryan Newman Quicken Loans Design A Scheme Chevrolet 21 43 Aric Almirola Nathan's Famous Ford 22 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation Chevrolet 23 51 Justin Allgaier # Brandt Professional Agriculture Chevrolet 24 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Zest Ford 25 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. National Guard Chevrolet 26 78 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Chevrolet 27 16 Greg Biffle Post-it Ford 28 47 AJ Allmendinger Hungry Jack/ACME Chevrolet 29 26 Cole Whitt # Uponor Toyota 30 13 Casey Mears GEICO Chevrolet 31 38 David Gilliland Long John Silver's Ford 32 98 Josh Wise Phil Parsons Racing Chevrolet 33 36 Reed Sorenson American Muscle Driving Experience 34 23 Alex Bowman # Dr Pepper Toyota 35 7 Michael Annett # Cypress HQ Chevrolet 36 40 Landon Cassill(i) Newtown Building Supplies Chevrolet 37 34 David Ragan Plimpton & Hills Ford 38 33 David Stremme Little Joe's Autos Chevrolet 39 32 JJ Yeley(i) CorvetteParts.net Ford 40 37 Mike Bliss(i) Accell Construction Inc. Chevrolet 41 66 Mike Wallace(i) Toyota 42 83 Travis Kvapil Burger King Toyota 43 44 Timmy Hill Phoenix Warehouse Chevrolet MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView