After Stewart’s surgeries, Stewart-Haas focus shifts to replacement drivers

From the Marbles

We know that Max Papis is in Tony Stewart's No. 14 at Watkins Glen. But with the word that Stewart will be out of the car for multiple races, the prevailing topic on Friday in upstate New York was who will replace Stewart after the road course race.

Stewart-Haas Director of Competition Greg Zipadelli said that there were "a couple of really good people" that the team has talked to, but a permanent replacement may not come until Bristol because the Nationwide Series is at Mid-Ohio next week while the Sprint Cup Series is at Michigan. That means the team is potentially looking at three drivers to take Stewart's spot while he's gone.

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As Stewart continues to recover from his second surgery on Thursday, Zipadelli said the team would have a better idea of things in a few days as Stewart progresses.

"We would love to put someone in the car until Tony comes back," Zipadelli said. "The problem with next week is that when you look at the schedules and lay out the Nationwide schedule at Mid-Ohio and us at Michigan, they don't match up very well. So somebody would do two half-ass jobs or we could find somebody that's out of the norm and put them in the car and try to go to Michigan and do the best we can. And then hopefully maybe at Bristol we can pick up with one person and maybe be able to do the rest of it and that obviously would be a Nationwide driver."

Those Nationwide drivers would obviously be Chevrolet drivers, and Regan Smith, Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson have been mentioned as candidates for the temporary vacancy. Smith has won in the Cup Series with Furniture Row Racing at Darlington and is running for the Nationwide Series title this year with JR Motorsports. His boss, Dale Earnhardt Jr., would certainly endorse him.

That would seem to be the most seamless of team transitions, as both JRM and SHR are affiliated with Hendrick Motorsports, and Smith also filled in for Junior when he missed two races with a concussion last season.

Dillon drives for his grandfather, Richard Childress, (the team that Kevin Harvick is leaving for SHR on the Cup side in 2014), but he shares a common sponsor with Stewart. Dillon drove the Bass Pro Shops sponsored RCR truck to the 2011 Camping World Truck Series title. Bass Pro shares primary sponsorship of Stewart's car. Larson has been mentioned because of Stewart's glowing remarks about him earlier in the season, and both drivers love to race sprint cars as much as possible. While Larson is in just his first full Nationwide Series season, he's not at the top of the standings, something that could be seen as a deterrent to multi-tasking for a few weeks. Dillon currently leads the standings with Smith 14 points behind.

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