Three-time Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart underwent successful surgery on his broken right leg on Thursday in North Carolina.
It was the second surgical procedure Stewart had since he suffered a broken tibia and fibula in an accident during a sprint car race on Monday night at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa. The 42-year-old driver had a metal rod inserted inside his tibia, pressing it to its atomic position.
His first surgery, done on Tuesday in Iowa, served as a preliminary procedure to stabilize and clean the Grade 2 injury.
According to a news release from Stewart-Haas Racing, Stewart's injury will sideline him indefinitely. He is the driver and co-owner of the No. 14 Chevrolet in Sprint Cup. SHR also noted that Stewart will remain hospitalized for observation. His discharge date has yet to be determined.
SHR revealed on Tuesday that Max Papis will replace Stewart in the No. 14 car for this weekend's race at Watkins Glen International. Papis, a road-course expert, tested the car on July 30 at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. The Italian-born racer has 35 starts in NASCAR's top series. His career-best finish of eighth came in 2009 at Watkins Glen.
"I'm not going to go out there to run 20th or 25th, but I'm going to go out there to make everyone proud and do the best job I can, and I know that my best job is pretty good," Papis said.
On Wednesday, SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli said during a teleconference that he expected Stewart to miss several races but was not exactly sure how many. The racing organization is exploring its options for Michigan (Aug. 18), Bristol (Aug. 24) and Atlanta (Sept. 1).
"As far as next week and on, we've got a few candidates, and we're talking to a few people," Zipadelli said. "We've got a lot of people that have obviously reached out. We're not sure if we can put one person in until Tony gets back or we're going to have to do multiple people.
"Our main priority was this was such short notice, and it was to get Max in here (on Tuesday), get the seat and all the things that we needed to change in this car and get this car headed to Watkins Glen, take care of all the stuff that we're doing now, and then we'll get behind some closed doors and kind of really decide who will be the best candidate for the 14 car and SHR to try and maintain what we can in owner's points."
Stewart's injury certainly ends any hopes of him making this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. With five races to go before the Chase begins, he is 11th in the point standings, just five points behind 10th-place Greg Biffle. Stewart currently holds one of the two wild card positions due to his one win this season, which came on June 2 at Dover. He has qualified for the Chase each season except 2006, the year after he won his second series title.