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.

Results, point standings after Truck race at Las Vegas

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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for his second win of 2020.

He beat Sheldon Creed for the victory.

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

IndyCar driver Conor Daly finished 18th and Travis Pastrana was 21st.

Click here for the race results.

Check back for the point standings.

Austin Hill wins Las Vegas Truck race

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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading the final 39 laps to score the victory.

Hill took the lead on a restart and held off charges from Sheldon Creed over the final 20 laps.

Creed’s progress was slowed with 11 laps to go when he got loose and scraped the wall in Turn 1. He was never able to get close enough to Hill to make a challenge.

Creed dominated the early portion of the race, leading 89 laps before he struggled to get going on the final restart and briefly fell to seventh.

The win is the second of the year for Hill. He’s the first playoff driver to win in the postseason and it come after he finished 25th at Bristol.

“We didn’t have the best truck tonight by no means,” Hill told FS1. “Pit crew did a hell of job on that last pit stop getting me into the position I needed to. I just had to go out there and get it. … Sheldon was definitely way faster than me. … I was probably looking in my mirror more than I was our front. I knew he was better than we were.”

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

More: Race results and point standings

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith all matched their best results of the season … While he was the first driver to finish one lap down, IndyCar driver Conor Daly placed 18th in his first career Truck Series start … Travis Pastrana placed 21st in his second start of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Rachael Lessard finished 20th after he had to pit early in the race following contact with the wall … Ben Rhodes finished 23rd after he spun from contact with Stewart Friesen and hit the inside wall on Lap 84 … Jordan Anderson’s engine expired on the ensuing restart. He finished 32nd.

NOTABLE: Natalie Decker, who was not medically cleared to compete Friday night, was treated and released from the infield care center.

WHAT’S NEXT: Race at Talladega Superspeedway, 1 p.m. ET Oct. 3 on FS1


Natalie Decker not medically cleared for Las Vegas Truck race

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NASCAR announced right before Friday night’s Truck Series race that Natalie Decker hadn’t been medically cleared to compete.

No details were provided about the issue that prevented Decker from being cleared. During the final stage of the race, NASCAR announced she had been treated and released from the infield medical center.

The Niece Motorsports driver would have started 23rd. Due to her No. 44 truck having cleared inspection and having been placed on the starting grid she was credited with a last-place finish.

Decker has made 11 starts this year. She missed the June 28 race at Pocono after she was hospitalized due to bile duct complications related to her gallbladder removal in December.

Check back for more.

Brandon Brown hopes to shed underdog role in Xfinity playoffs

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Brandon Brown knows the odds are against him advancing beyond the first round of the Xfinity playoffs.

“If I went out and we did a survey and we asked 1,000 NASCAR fans to create a playoff bracket, I guarantee that 90 to 99 percent of them have me getting eliminated in the first round,” he told NBC Sports.

But that’s not stopping him.

Brown is in the Xfinity playoffs for the first time, earning the final spot last weekend with his family-run team. He enters Saturday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) last in the 12-driver field. Brown has 2,000 points and is 10 points behind Ross Chastain, who holds the final transfer spot, entering the first round.

MORE: Saturday’s Xfinity race start time, lineup, forecast

Regardless where he is in the standings, Brown still met the team’s preseason goal of making the playoffs.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” the 27-year-old said of making the playoffs. “It’s so exciting and so thrilling. We’re just happy. Life is good. We’re seeing the fruits of our labor.”

Much of the Xfinity playoff focus will be on Chase Briscoe, who enters with a series-high seven wins. Or Austin Cindric, who won the regular-season title. Or Justin Allgaier, who has won three of the last seven races and could be the favorite if he makes it to the championship race at Phoenix Raceway.

Brown, who is in his second full season in the series, has four consecutive top-20 finishes going into this weekend. He knows the challenge he faces.

He said a key for this weekend is to have no mistakes, be running at the end and try to take advantage of any mistakes other playoff drivers have.

Then, he’ll look to Talladega. He’ll have an upgraded Earnhardt Childress Racing engine for that race, the team spending the extra money for the engine upgrade.

“I go into that track with confidence,” he said. “I need to go out there and make it happen, go win and make an name and go ahead and punch my ticket.”

While Brown knows most look at him as the underdog of these playoffs, he hopes to drop that title someday.

“The goal will be to get rid of that underdog title and to build that program that is going to be looked on as a powerhouse of the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” he said. “I enjoy the ride (as underdog), but now I’m ready to advance past it.”

Points entering Xfinity playoffs 

2,050 – Chase Briscoe

2,050 – Austin Cindric

2,033 – Justin Allgaier

2,025 – Noah Gragson

2,020 – Brandon Jones

2,018 – Justin Haley

2,014 – Harrison Burton

2,010 – Ross Chastain

2,002 – Ryan Sieg

2,002 – Michael Annett

2,001 – Riley Herbst

2,000 – Brandon Brown

First Round races

Sept. 26 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 3 – Talladega Superspeedway (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 10 – Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC)