'Smoke' suffered broken leg in sprint car crash Monday evening
CHARLOTTE, N.C.-- NASCAR president Mike Helton and former NASCAR Cup champion Dale Jarrett made note of Tony Stewart’s injury during their opening remarks of the Motorsports 2.0 program Tuesday at the Ritz-Carlton.
Jarrett served as host for the “fireside chat” portion of the program, leading a question and answer session with Helton before an audience of local business leaders.
“Right now our thoughts are just on him getting all healed back up and back at it as soon as possible,” Helton said. “We’ll see how all the details unfold today on what exactly that means and how long it will take him to get back in the seat of the car.”
Stewart broke both the tibia and fibula in his right leg Monday night while competing at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa. The three-time Cup champion was leading the race when he made contact with a slower entry, contact that sent his car into a series of violent flips. He was transported to a local hospital where he underwent a preliminary procedure and will require a second surgery.
On Tuesday night in Mooresville, N.C. at a 10th anniversary celebration for NASCAR Technical Institute, Helton shared his thoughts when he heard the news.
“The first reaction was personal -- that you want Tony to be OK and heal up now that we know more facts, and get back to racing pretty soon,” Helton said.
“Professionally, it’s still a dangerous sport. We have things like this occur. We’ll work through all the business elements of what Stewart-Haas does with the 14 car. They’ve already announced what they’re doing at Watkins Glen with Max Papis, but going down the road we’ll deal with all those things. The focus is going to be on everybody wanting Tony to get well and healthy and back at it.”
When asked whether he was worried about drivers racing on the side in series that don’t have same safety standards as NASCAR, Helton said, “Motorsports is motorsports, and we work hard on making NASCAR inclusive to every group. Not exclusive.”
“We get the fact that drivers and team owners have to make decisions on what they do beyond this racing with NASCAR,” Helton continued. “I think the whole motorsports industry has gotten better and safer. But it’s still a dangerous sport, and you have occurrences like we’ve been reminded of.”
“A lot of drivers spend their time in the gym … they’re all the time in the gym working out,” Jarrett told the assembled crowd. “But that is Tony Stewart’s workout, behind the wheel of a race car.”
Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, is 11th in the Sprint Cup Series points standings and with one Cup win, leads the battle for the first of two Wild Card spots in the Chase For The Sprint Cup.
The series travels to Watkins Glen International this weekend for the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen, a race Stewart has won five times.
Team officials announce Max Papis as Stewart's replacement for the No. 14 Chevrolet.
NASCAR.com's David Caraviello contributed to this article.