Tony Stewart will miss the start of his final NASCAR Sprint Cup season due to back injuries sustained in an all-terrain vehicle accident last weekend.
The three-time Cup champion was taken to hospital following the incident on Sunday, where he was awake and alert throughout, and he was transferred to a hospital in the Charlotte area on Tuesday night before undergoing surgery on Wednesday.
Stewart sustained a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra in the accident, which occured while he was on holiday on America's west coast.
Following that procedure, a statement from Stewart-Haas Racing said: "The subsequent recovery period means Stewart will miss the beginning of the season.
"A timetable for his return has not been determined, but he is expected to make a full recovery and return to the #14 Chevrolet in 2016.
"Plans for an interim driver have not been finalised."
Stewart broke two bones in his right leg in August 2013 in a sprint car crash at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa. The injury forced him to miss the final 15 races of the 2013 Cup season.
He missed three rounds in 2014 after he struck and killed 20-year-old driver Kevin Ward Jr in a sprint car race in Canandaigua, New York.
Last season, he competed in all the events but finished 28th in the standings with a career-worst average finish of 24.8.
Speaking after news of the accident broke earlier this week, NASCAR chairman Brian France said: "On behalf of everyone at NASCAR, I wish Tony a full recovery and look forward to seeing him back in our sport when he's ready to return."
Stewart's injury is the same type of fracture four-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti suffered in a motorcycle crash in 2003. He was out of racing for three months in a brace with no surgery.