Vickers drove for Stewart in the Daytona 500 and is in the car this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with Mobil 1 serving as the primary sponsor. Dillon drove the car last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway because of Bass Pro’s sponsorship. Bass Pro, which has been affiliated with Dillon previously, is scheduled to be the car’s primary sponsor for next week’s race at Phoenix International Raceway, at Auto Club Speedway the following week and May 1 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Stewart has no timetable for when he’ll race again. He suffered a burst fracture of his L1 vertebra during a sand dunes accident on Jan. 31 and had surgery Feb. 3. He said he’s scheduled to have X-rays taken of his back Wednesday.
“The biggest concern is just making sure it heals right the first time,” Stewart said Friday.
The X-rays could provide a timeline for when Stewart returns to race this season.
“When they clear me to (race), I can promise you I’ll be ready,” Stewart said. “We’ve been through enough pain tolerance with (his broken right leg in 2013) and this.”
Stewart also said he’s hopeful NASCAR waives the requirement that a driver must start every race to be Chase eligible for him. Even so, the three-time series champion would still need to be in the top 30 in points and at earn at least one win to qualify for the Chase.
“Whatever they decide, they decide,” Stewart said of NASCAR. “I would like to think it’s going to be similar to what they did last year with Kyle (Busch).”
NASCAR waived the requirement that a driver had to start every race for Busch after he was injured in an Xfinity race the day before last year’s Daytona 500. Busch was injured when his car slammed into an unprotected concrete wall inside Turn 1. Stewart’s injury, though, came in an activity away from the track.
NASCAR also granted a waiver last year to Kurt Busch, who was suspended the first three races after a court ruling against him, and to Kyle Larson after he fainted the day before the spring Martinsville race.
Until Stewart can race, he wants to be at the track with his team even if doctors would prefer he was at home in bed or walking on a treadmill.
“I think it’s good for our team more than anything,” Stewart said of being at the track. “I want to be here to support them. I want them to know that even though I’ve kind of put them in a box again, that I’m going to be here and I’m going to be supportive. That’s a big deal to me, to be here and let those guys know I’m behind them 100 percent.”
He’s also at the track because he’s tired of being home recuperating.
“You lay around now because you’re being told to and it’s like, I can’t do it anymore,” Stewart said. “I’ve got to get up and get moving around. I’m a lot happier (at the track). I would rather be here and be in pain than be at home, be comfortable, and no pain. The pain is worth it to me. I don’t mind it.”