Triple NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart has announced an end to his lengthy injury lay-off, declaring himself a starter at Richmond this weekend.
Stewart has been sidelined since late January when he was hospitalised with a back injury following an all-terrain-vehicle accident.
Confirmation of the 44-year-old’s return comes a week after NASCAR gave him special dispensation for the Chase, which will see him allowed to qualify for the post-season play-offs.
“NASCAR received the appropriate medical clearance documentation allowing Tony Stewart to resume normal racing activities,” NASCAR Executive Vice President 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.”
Stewart had previously announced the 2016 season as his swansong in Sprint Cup.
“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 (next week) 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 (April 30-May 1) 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 minimise the amount of time I’m in the car.
“I’ll return full time at Kansas (May 6-7) and enjoy every moment I can in my final year of Sprint Cup.”
The latest injury comes after Stewart suffered a badly broken right leg in a Sprintcar crash in 2013 while he put himself on the sideline for a number of races following another dirt track accident which claimed the life of Kevin Ward jr in 2014.
Brian Vickers and Ty Dillon have been substituting in the #14 Chevrolet in Stewart’s absence this season.