Tony Stewart to retire from NASCAR after 2016 season – USA TODAY
CHARLOTTE â The day many NASCAR fans have dreaded is set to arrive Wednesday.
Two people familiar with Tony Stewart’s plans confirmed to USA TODAY Sports the three-time champion’s intentions to step away from NASCAR after the 2016 season, with Clint Bowyer likely to take over the seat of the No. 14 Chevrolet beginning in 2017. The people requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.
The official announcement is set for 1 p.m., Eastern time Wednesday in Kannapolis, N.C.Â after Motorsport.com and ESPN said they confirmed the news Sunday evening.
For months, the NASCAR garage hadÂ been buzzing about Stewart’s possible departureÂ from the Sprint Cup Series following a season-long retirement tour like the one currently taking place with Jeff Gordon.
SHR did not respond to a request for comment on the decision, but spokesman Mike Arning told USA TODAY Sports on Aug. 19 there was nothing official to announce yet.
âOur focus is on finishing 2015 strong and getting as many of our drivers into the Chase as possible,â he said in AugustÂ when asked about the possibility of Bowyer replacing Stewart.
The last few years have been filled with turmoil for Stewart, a three-time champion who was once a regular winner on the Sprint Cup Series circuit. The 44-year-old future Hall of Famer won 47 Cup races from 1999-2012, but has just one win in the past three seasons.
A crash while racing sprint cars on an Iowa dirt track cost Stewart the final 15 races of 2013Â âÂ withÂ a severeÂ leg injury which came with a lengthy recovery processÂ âÂ and he was then involved in a sprint car incident that killed Kevin Ward Jr. in New York last year.
After returning to NASCAR following a three-race absence to mourn Ward’s death, Stewart said at the time he had no plans to quit racing.
“This is what I’ve done all my life,” he said then.Â “This is what I’ve done for 36 years, and I wouldn’t change anything about it. I love driving race cars. I think it might change right now as far as how much of it and what I do, but there was never a thought in my head about stopping. That would take the life out of me.”
The Ward tragedy changed Stewart forever, he told reporters earlier this year, and the aftermath continues to play out in the civil courts (the Ward family has sued Stewart for wrongful death).
Stewart is the co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, which currently has two drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup âÂ Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch. Stewart, 25th in points, missed the playoff this year along with teammate Danica Patrick.
Bowyer, recently released from Michael Waltrip Racing after the team announced it will shut down at the end of this season, will likely move to HScott Motorsports for one year and then move to SHR after Stewart retire. The HScott portion of the deal could be announced as early as this weekend at Dover International Speedway.
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PHOTOS: Behind the wheel with Tony Stewart