Stewart returning to car this weekend at Richmond


Tony Stewart announced on Thursday that he will return to the driver's seat of his No. 14 Chevy this weekend in Richmond for the Toyota Owners 400.

Stewart, 44, broke his back (the L1 vertebrae) driving a dune buggy on Jan. 31 in the California desert. He had surgery three days later and has since missed the first eight races of his final Sprint Cup season. Ty Dillon and Bran Vickers have driven the No. 14 in Stewart's absence. 

Doctors cleared the three-time Sprint Cup champion saying his recent back scans "looked much better than they thought they would after three months."

"As soon as the doctors said they were happy with my scans, I wasn't going to wait any longer to get back in my racecar," Stewart said in a release. "I want to make the most of my last season in Sprint Cup, and I've been on the sidelines long enough."

After this weekend at Richmond, Stewart will participate in a Goodyear tire test next week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before practicing and qualifying at Talladega Superspeedway for the Geico 500 set for May 1. However, Stewart will only start the race before handing the wheel to Dillon to finish.

"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," Stewart said. "I'll return full time at Kansas and enjoy every moment I can in my final year of Sprint Cup."

NASCAR has granted a waiver to Stewart making him eligible for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.