Tony Stewart cleared to return to racing for Richmond NASCAR round

Tony Stewart will make his first appearance of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season this weekend at Richmond International Raceway after recovering from a back injury

Tony Stewart cleared to return to racing for Richmond NASCAR round

The three-time Cup champion was injured before the start of the campaign after an accident on an all-terrain vehicle, and was later ruled out of the start of his final season as a result.

Stewart, who last September announced he would retire from NASCAR at the end of this season, has missed the opening eight rounds of the 2016 campaign.

Ty Dillon and Brian Vickers have stood in for the 44-year-old at the Stewart-Haas Racing operation he co-owns with new Formula 1 team boss Gene Haas.

But Stewart announced on Thursday that he would make his return at Richmond this weekend.

"As soon as the doctors said they were happy with my scans, I wasn't going to wait any longer to get back in my racecar," said Stewart.

"I want to make the most of my last season in Sprint Cup, and I've been on the sidelines long enough."

Although Stewart will contest the full race at Richmond, in the following event at Talladega he will practice and qualify then start the race before handing over to Dillon later on.

"We're taking a strategic approach to my return," Stewart continued.

"Richmond is a track where I feel very comfortable and because it's a short track, the speeds are substantially less.

"We'll start the Talladega race to get the points, but understanding the style of racing and the higher potential of getting involved in an incident, we thought it was best to minimise the amount of time I'm in the car.

"I'll return full-time at Kansas and enjoy every moment I can in my final year of Sprint Cup.

"I appreciate everyone's patience and all the support they've given me the last couple of months, but the best medicine will come this weekend at Richmond when I finally get to go racing."

NASCAR GRANTS STEWART CHASE WAIVER

Stewart has also been granted dispensation by NASCAR officials that will allow him to qualify for the Sprint Cup Chase this year if he wins a race.

Rules state that to feature in the Chase, drivers must contest all rounds of the season.

But Kyle Busch - who went on to win the 2015 title - was given a waiver to qualify after missing the first 11 rounds of the season through injury, provided he reached the top 30 in the points, and that same privilege has now been passed on to Stewart.

"NASCAR received the appropriate medical clearance documentation allowing Tony Stewart to resume normal racing activities," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's executive vice president and chief racing development officer.

"We also have granted the request from Stewart-Haas Racing for a waiver for Tony to be eligible to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

"As he begins his final season, we wish Tony the best of luck."

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