Tony Stewart's No. 14 car will be competing in Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited exhibition race.
NASCAR said Thursday afternoon that Stewart-Haas Racing could field the No. 14 car in the event. The driver of the car is expected to be Brian Vickers. SHR is announcing the driver of the car Friday morning and the AP reported Wednesday that it will be Vickers.
Vickers has been medically cleared by NASCAR to race. He missed most of the 2015 season because of a recurrence of blood clots, which also sidelined him in 2010 and 2013. Stewart is out with a fractured vertebra suffered in a late January sand buggy incident.
“We have not been informed who the driver will be” NASCAR vice president Steve O'Donnell said on NBC's NASCAR America. “We can just confirm we will allow the 14 in the race.”
It's, uh, quite unlikely that NASCAR doesn't know that Vickers (or someone else) will replace Stewart in the Unlimited.
The addition of Vickers into the race also goes against the spirit of the eligibility rules of the Sprint Unlimited.
Yes, the race's rules change quite often, but the race has always been about driver eligibility, not team eligibility. Stewart was able to race in the Unlimited because he's won the race before. Vickers does not meet any of the criteria that the other drivers in the race do. But since Stewart-Haas was planning on participate in the race, NASCAR let No. 14 car in. Plus, it's a great chance for Vickers to get acclimated to drafting before Daytona 500 practices.
Is the move inconsistent? Of course it is. But it's also an exhibition race, so there's no need to get worked up about it. It's not like the Unlimited has had a rigid criteria recently anyway.
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