KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — Tony Stewart underwent successful surgery Tuesday to repair the broken right tibia and fibula suffered in a sprint car race in Iowa.
Stewart will need a second surgery and remains hospitalized. There was no timetable for his return for the three-time Sprint Cup champion, who has wrecked three times in the past month while competing in extracurricular races.
“I told someone to go get my phone or else I was going to get up and get it myself,” Stewart said Tuesday on a Facebook post. “Finally got reconnected to the world and just want to say thank you for all the prayers and well wishes. My team will remain strong and I will be back.”
Stewart-Haas racing named Max Papis as the substitute driver in the No. 14 for Sunday’s NASCAR race at Watkins Glen.
Papis has made 35 career Sprint Cup starts.
Stewart is a five-time winner at the road course at Watkins Glen.
The 42-year-old Stewart was leading the 30-lap feature in a 360 winged sprint car with five laps remaining when a lapped car spun in Turn 4 and collected Stewart and two others.
The sprint car accident Monday night came a day after Stewart finished ninth in the NASCAR race at Pocono Raceway. He’s 11th in the Sprint Cup standings with five races to go until the Chase for the Sprint Cup field is set.
Stewart took responsibility for triggering a roughly 10-car accident at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park on July 16 in which 19-year-old Alysha Ruggles suffered a broken vertebra in her back.
Last Monday, in a sprint car race at Ohsweken Speedway in Ontario, Stewart rolled his car five times but walked away. He stayed at the track to compete in the World of Outlaws race the next night and bristled at the NASCAR event at Pocono Raceway last weekend when asked about his harrowing incident in Canada.
“You mortals have got to learn, you guys need to watch more sprint car videos and stuff,” he said Friday at Pocono. “It was not a big deal. It’s starting to get annoying this week about that. That was just an average sprint car wreck. When they wreck, they get upside down like that.”
Stewart also gave an impassioned defense of sprint car racing in June following the death of good friend Jason Leffler, who was killed in an accident at Bridgeport Speedway in Swedesboro, N.J.
“I’d be grateful if you guys would understand that what happened this week wasn’t because somebody didn’t do something right with the race track. It was an accident. Just like if you go out and there’s a car crash. It’s an accident,” Stewart said days after Leffler’s death. “Nobody as a track owner wants to go through what happened, but it’s not due to a lack of effort on their part to try to make their facilities as safe as possible under the conditions they have.”
Stewart left Joe Gibbs Racing to own his own team, in part so he could continue to race when he wanted. Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J Foyt, Stewart’s childhood open-wheel hero, told The Associated Press he respected Stewart for being a true “racer.”
“He ain’t no prima donna and life is short, and we don’t know how we are going to die or what’s going to happen,” Foyt said. “I just hate to see anybody badmouth Tony for anything he’s doing, and if they are, they are just jealous. People saying he’s putting his businesses at risk? I had three dealerships, people respected me.
“If they are worrying about their jobs and him getting hurt, what’s to say he won’t have a heart attack tomorrow and die?” Foyt said. “He might die and it might not be from racing. I had business and I still raced. I always said I am going to continue racing until I don’t want to race anymore and he’s the same way.”
Stewart has refused to give up his weeknight racing, even if it put his Cup season at risk.
Race winner Brian Brown told the Des Moines Register he saw Monday’s accident in front of him.
“It looked like he got into a lapped car,” Brown told The Register. “When I got close, he was flipping cage down. I didn’t really have time to watch and see what was going on. “
On Sunday, veteran sprint car driver Kramer Williamson died from injuries suffered during a qualifying race at Lincoln Speedway in central Pennsylvania. Williamson, 63, was pronounced dead at York Hospital from serious injuries suffered in a crash that occurred Saturday night during the United Racing Company 358/360 Sprint Car Challenge.