By AMANDA VINCENT
Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart sustained a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra in an all-terrain vehicle accident on the West Coast on Sunday, according to an announcement from Stewart-Haas Racing on Thursday.
As a result of his injury, Stewart is expected to miss the start of the 2016 Sprint Cup Series season. The first points-paying race of the season is the Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on Feb. 21. Stewart is also eligible for the Feb. 13 Sprint Unlimited exhibition race, also held at Daytona. A date for Stewart’s return to the driver’s seat of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet is unknown. According to the Thursday SHR announcement, plans have not been finalized for an interim driver(s).
Details surrounding Stewart’s accident were kept hush-hush. Limited details emerged Tuesday afternoon that confirmed he had an ATV accident on the West Coast that resulted in a back injury.
A press release from Stewart-Haas Racing Thursday stated that Stewart was transported to a local hosptial and evaluated. He was awake and alert during throughout examination. He was transported to a Charlotte, N.C., area hospital on Tuesday evening and underwent surgery there on Wednesday.
Stewart is expected to make a full recovery and return to the No. 14 car sometime during the 2016 season. The upcoming season will be Stewart’s last as a Sprint Cup Series driver.
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