• 54°

Gordon says Stewart could run strong in Atlanta

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) — Jeff Gordon is expecting Tony Stewart to be a contender in his return to the track.
Kevin Harvick will be on the pole but Stewart, who will start 12th, will be in the spotlight in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Stewart is competing for the first time since the sprint car he was driving struck and killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. in an Aug. 9 race at a dirt track in upstate New York.
Gordon was impressed when Stewart ran close to 190 mph in practice. Stewart was a bit slower in qualifying at 187.907.
Still, Gordon said Friday that Stewart “may make quite a return.”
Gordon and other drivers said the return to racing will provide therapy for Stewart, who was visibly emotional, with his voice breaking, as he read a prepared statement on Friday.
“I do think that the best thing for him is to be in that race car,” Gordon said.
Said Harvick, Stewart’s teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing: “Being in that car cures a lot of problems for a short time.”
In his prepared statement, Stewart said he skipped the last three races “out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way.”
“It’s given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted,” Stewart said. “I missed my team, my teammates and missed being back in the race car. I think that being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.”
Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, one of Stewart’s primary sponsors, released a statement Saturday expressing support for Stewart in his return. Morris said he met with Stewart last week.
“It made my heart ache to see him so devastated by this incident,” said Morris, who described Stewart as “one of the most compassionate and kind-hearted individuals I have ever met.”
Brad Keselowski will start beside Harvick on the front row.
It is the next-to-last race before the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Stewart can make the 16-car Chase field with a win Sunday night or next week at Richmond, thanks to a waiver announced by NASCAR on Friday. NASCAR requires its drivers to compete in every event to make the playoff, but Stewart received the waiver that is normally applied to a driver who misses a race for medical reasons.
Gordon, the points leader, and other drivers supported the decision to grant Stewart the waiver.
“I think the whole intent of eligibility for the Chase is just so that somebody doesn’t go just take a vacation after winning a few races,” Gordon said. “That’s the way I look at it. It’s not for unforeseen circumstances or medical or anything like that to prevent you from going out and competing in the Chase.
“They want the teams and the drivers that have earned their way in it and deserve to be in it and I believe if they win a race they should be in it.”
The new Chase format places an emphasis on wins. Drivers who don’t have a win must nervously watch the points standings for the final spots in the Chase field.
The format could force some drivers to adapt an all-or-nothing strategy for the final two races before the Chase.
“There are two races left and it’s going to be a battle,” said Brian Vickers, who is 19th in points and seeking his first win of the year. “It’s going to be intense these next two races, knowing it’s not just about the guys on the cusp of the points. It’s anybody who can win.”
Matt Kenseth, who was fifth in qualifying, is in the best position of those still trying to lock up a spot in the Chase. He will be locked in by finishing seventh or better, regardless of who wins the race.
Gordon is reaching a milestone with his 750th career race. It’s an appropriate setting for Gordon, who made his debut in Atlanta in the final race of the 1992 season.
“It just seems like it was just yesterday it started right here,” Gordon said. “I love this track. I love racing here. So it’s pretty cool to have 750 happening here.”
———
Follow Charles Odum on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CharlesOdum

Comments

Comments closed.

Local

Dukeville lead testing results trickle in, more participation needed

Education

Faith Academy interviewing staff, preparing site for fall opening

News

Volunteers work around obstacles, alter procedures to offer free tax services to those in need

Education

Education shoutouts

Local

Retired Marine gets recognition for toy collection efforts

Local

March issue of Salisbury the Magazine is now available

Education

Five get Dunbar School Heritage Scholarships

Education

Education briefs: Salisbury Academy fourth-graders think big as inventors

Education

Bakari Sellers keynote speaker at Livingstone College Founder’s Day program

Nation/World

Biden aims to distribute masks to millions in ‘equity’ push

Nation/World

Chief: Capitol Police were warned of violence before riot

Nation/World

GOP rallies solidly against Democrats’ virus relief package

Nation/World

FDA says single-dose shot from Johnson & Johnson prevents severe COVID

High School

Coaches, lawmakers react to governor’s order expanding sporting event capacity

Coronavirus

Three new COVID-19 deaths, positives remain below triple digits

BREAKING NEWS

Gov. Cooper announces end to curfew, changes to restrictions affecting bars, high school sports

Crime

Blotter: Two charged after call about package

Crime

Salisbury Police investigating two shootings

Crime

Chase involving Kernersville man ends in woods behind Carson High School

News Main

North Rowan girls end season with playoff loss to Murphy

Education

Rowan-Salisbury EC department plunges in place after raising $1,300 for Special Olympics

Nation/World

Tiger Woods injured in car crash, has surgery on legs

Local

Local stakeholders set goals, direction to tackle city’s housing issues

Education

RSS board talks future of Henderson Independent School