It’s already been an arduous season for Tony Stewart, and the first NASCAR race is still nearly two weeks away. Stewart suffered a back injury that will sideline him for the start of the year, but recent reports note he could be eyeing a return in NASCAR’s home at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Smoke sustained massive injuries last week when he crashed an ATV, but is targeting the Sprint All-Star Race on May 21 as his return date, according to Godfather Motorsports.
The path back to racing a full-time schedule might sound familiar, as Kyle Busch returned during the All-Star Race last season. While Stewart is older than Busch and should take longer to recover, this should be a positive sign for the severity of his back injury.
During his rehabilitation, Stewart is already reportedly walking around last Friday and does not require a brace following surgery. Dave Moody does note that Stewart’s timeline could be pushed back depending on the rehab program, but it’s not likely we’ll see Stewart before Charlotte.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) February 4, 2016
Regardless of when Stewart returns, there are still several questions to be answered. Who will race the No. 14 for the three months before Smoke’s comeback? Will multiple drivers take his place? Is Stewart eligible for a Chase waiver in his final season?
All of those questions will be answered over the next several months — some before this weekend. For now, NASCAR fans have reason to be excited at the prospect of Smoke back on the track in the Carolinas.