Questions and answers about Tony Stewart’s situation


Stewart-Haas Racing announced Thursday that Tony Stewart would miss the beginning of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season after sustaining a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra in an all-terrain accident Sunday on the West Coast.

The announcement has led to many questions. Here are answers or explanations to some of the questions.

What is a burst fracture?

It is described at as an injury where the vertebra is “severely compressed.’’ The term burst, according to the site, implies that the margins of the vertebra are spread out in all directions. That can bruise the spinal cord and cause paralysis or partial neurologic injury. Stewart-Haas Racing officials announced Tuesday — when the injury was first disclosed — that Stewart could move his extremities after the accident.

A burst fracture is seen in a motor vehicle accident or a fall from a height and can cause severe pain. Greg Biffle told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Stewart was injured in an incident in the dunes of Southern California.

Biffle noted that dunes can be challenging. “The dunes are unpredictable,’’ he told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “ You can land harder on some spots than others. I’ll tell you what, I’ve knocked the wind out of myself, thought I broke my tailbone or back before.’’

What is the L1 vertebra?

It is the smallest vertebra, according to The L1 vertebra bears the weight of the upper body and acts as a transition between the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae.

The human backbone features a column of 33 total vertebrae with 24 that are moveable. The moveable vertebrae are divided into three regions — cervical, thoracic and lumbar. The L1 vertebra is level with the ninth rib.

Did Tony Stewart have surgery?

Yes. He had fracture stablizing surgery Wednesday.

How long will Tony Stewart be out of the car?

Stewart-Haas Racing said only that the three-time champion will miss the beginning of the Sprint Cup season. No timetable was set.

Who will be in the No. 14 until Tony Stewart returns?

Stewart-Haas Racing has not announced a replacement driver. NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan lists the likely candidates and what makes them an attractive choice.

What happens to Tony Stewart’s team for the Sprint Unlimited?

Tony Stewart was eligible to compete in the Feb. 13 event at Daytona International Speedway as a former Sprint Unlimited winner. NBC Sports checked with NASCAR on Thursday about the team’s eligibility without Stewart driving, and a representative stated they were examining the issue.

Something to consider. There are two drivers eligible for the Sprint Unlimited currently without rides: Jeff Gordon and David Gilliland. If neither finds a ride, that would allow the next two highest in points not yet in the Sprint Unlimited to be eligible for the event (Casey Mears and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.). The next eligible driver then would be Sam Hornish Jr., who does not have a  Cup ride.

So is Tony Stewart eligible for a waiver for the Chase?

One of the requirements to make the Chase is that a driver must start every race. NASCAR granted waivers to Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson last year for missing races for various reasons — Kyle Busch was injured, Kurt Busch was suspended and Larson missed a race after passing out the day before the event. Nothing has been determined in Stewart’s case and likely won’t until closer to his return.

Alex Bowman confident as he returns to racing from back injury


CONCORD, N.C. — Alex Bowman watched the rain-filled skies over Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday with more than a touch of disappointment.

As weather threatened to cancel Saturday night’s scheduled NASCAR Cup Series practice at the speedway, Bowman saw his chances to testing his car — and his body — dissolving in the raindrops. NASCAR ultimately cancelled practice and qualifying because of rain.

MORE: Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup practice, qualifying

Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra in a sprint car accident last month and has missed three Cup races while he recovers. Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the season’s longest race, is scheduled to mark his return to the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet.

“It would have been really nice to kickstart that with practice today,” Bowman said. “I haven’t raced or competitively driven a race car in a month. I’m trying to understand where my rusty areas are going to be and where I’m still good.”

Bowman ran 200 laps in a test season at North Wilkesboro Speedway this week, but, of course, that doesn’t compare with the faster speeds and tougher G-forces he’ll experience over 400 laps Sunday at CMS.

Bowman admitted that he is still experiencing pain from the back injury — his car flipped several times — and that he expects some pain during the race. But he said he is confident he’ll be OK and that the longer race distance won’t be an issue.

“I broke my back a month ago, and there’s definitely things that come along with that for a long time,” he said. “I have some discomfort here and there and there are things I do that don’t feel good. That’s just part of it. It’s stuff I’ll have to deal with. But, for the most part, I’m back to normal.

“I’m easing back into being in the gym. I’m trying to be smart with things. If I twist the wrong way, sometimes it hurts. In the race car at the end of a six-hour race, I’m probably not going to be the best.”

The sprint car crash interrupted what had been a fine seasonal start for Bowman. Although winless, he had three top fives and six top 10s in the first 10 races.

“I’m excited to be back,” Bowman said. “Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off and be strong right out of the gate.”

He said he hopes to return to short-track racing but not in the near future.

“Someday I want to get back in a sprint car or midget,” he said. “I felt like we were just getting rolling in a sprint car. That night we were pretty fast. Definitely a bummer there. That’s something I really want to conquer and be competitive at in the World of Outlaws or High Limits races. Somebody I’ll get back to that. It’s probably smart if I give my day job a little alone time for a bit.”




Charlotte NASCAR Cup Series starting lineup: Rain cancels qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — William Byron and Kevin Harvick will start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the front row after wet weather cancelled Saturday night qualifying.

Rain pelted the CMS area much of the day Saturday, and NASCAR announced at 3:45 p.m. that Cup practice and qualifying, scheduled for Saturday night, had been cancelled.

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

The starting field was set by the NASCAR rulebook.

Following Byron and Harvick in the starting top 10 will be Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Christopher Bell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The elimination of the practice session was particularly problematic for Alex Bowman, scheduled to return to racing Sunday after missing three weeks with a back injury, and Jimmie Johnson, who will be starting only his third race this year. Johnson will start 37th — last in the field.

Charlotte Cup starting lineup

Wet weather cancels Charlotte Cup Series practice, qualifying


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR Cup Series drivers will start the longest race of the season with no practice or qualifying.

Wet weather and predictions of more to come led NASCAR to cancel Saturday night’s Cup Series practice and qualifying in mid-afternoon. The field for Sunday’s 600-mile race was set by the NASCAR rulebook, placing William Byron and Kevin Harvick on the front row for the  scheduled 6 p.m. start.

MORE: Charlotte Cup starting lineup

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to cockpit

Weather also could be an issue Sunday as more rain is predicted for the speedway area.

Drivers were scheduled to practice at 7 p.m. Saturday. That session was to be followed by qualifying at 7:45 p.m. The cancellations were announced at 3:45 p.m.

The time-trial cancellation marked the first time in 64 years that qualifying has been canceled for the 600.

Charlotte Xfinity race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — Persistent rain forced the postponement of Saturday’s scheduled 300-mile NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway to Monday.

The race is scheduled to start at noon ET. It will be televised by FS1 and broadcast by the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Driver introductions and other pre-race activities were held at the track Saturday, but rain that had dampened the track in the morning hours returned. After several attempts at drying the track, the race was postponed after heavier rain returned in mid-afternoon.

Justin Allgaier will start the race from the pole position.