Stewart-Haas Racing announced on Thursday that Tony Stewart will not compete at Michigan International Speedway this weekend. SHR announced that Jeff Burton will drive the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet this weekend.
SHR added that the driver change only pertains to Michigan as Stewart’s plans beyond Michigan are still undetermined. However, as noted earlier in the week, SHR executive Greg Zippidelli stated that any racing outside of NASCAR that Stewart was scheduled to do is cancelled till further notice.
During a sprint car event last Saturday night at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, Ward Jr. was spun out by Stewart. He then got out of his car to display his displeasure, when Stewart’s car would make contact with Ward, sending him sliding across the track. Ward Jr. would be transported to hospital, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.
Stewart skipped the race on Sunday at Watkin’s Glen with Regan Smith driving the No. 14 Chevrolet. Orange County Sherriff Philip C. Povero said the police investigation into Ward Jr.’s death could take up to two weeks and they haven’t filed any criminal charges against Stewart.
“As we speak at this time, there are no facts that support any criminal behavior or conduct, or any probable cause of a criminal act in this investigation,” Povero stated. “I repeat – this is an open investigation. No criminal charges have been placed against anyone, and no facts at this point that would support probable cause of any criminal behavior.”
A 21-time race winner in the Sprint Cup Series, Burton will be making his third start of the season this weekend at Michigan. He ran two races earlier this year as part of a part-time deal with Michael Waltrip Racing. He finished 17th at Las Vegas in March and 20th at New Hampshire in July. In 40 career starts at Michigan, Burton has four top-fives and 11 top-10s, including a pair of top-10s in last year’s races. It was announced earlier this year that Burton will be moving to the NBC booth as a commentator in 2015.
Stewart-Haas Racing is expected to address the media on Friday morning at 10 a.m. EST to discuss the recent happenings. Stay tuned to OnPitRoad.com for that story tomorrow.