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Tony Stewart back in the No. 14 car at Richmond
Nick Bromberg - From The Marbles

Tony Stewart's final Sprint Cup Series season is about to begin.

Stewart, who has missed the first eight races of the season after suffering a fractured vertebra in a dune buggy incident in January, will return to the driver's seat of the No. 14 car at Richmond on Sunday after being cleared by doctors to race.

“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,” Stewart said in a statement. “I want to make the most of my last season in Sprint Cup, and I’ve been on the sidelines long enough.”

Brian Vickers was tabbed to drive the No. 14 car at Richmond in Stewart's absence. He's filled in for Stewart along with Ty Dillon.

Dillon will drive with Stewart at Talladega, the race after Richmond on the schedule. Stewart will start the race to get the points and he will be replaced by Dillon at some point in the early stages of the race. The team doesn't want to risk Stewart being caught in one of the inevitable multi-car crashes at Talladega.

“We’re taking a strategic approach to my return,” Stewart said. “Richmond is a track where I feel very comfortable and because it’s a short track, the speeds are substantially less. The Goodyear test in Indy is sort of a controlled environment, allowing me to get more acclimated with my car at higher speeds. 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 minimize the amount of time I’m in the car. I’ll return fulltime at Kansas and enjoy every moment I can in my final year of Sprint Cup."

The three-time Sprint Cup Series champion announced in the fall of 2015 that 2016 would be his final season. Clint Bowyer, currently driving on a one-year deal for HScott Motorsports, is taking over the No. 14 in 2017.

Stewart is making his return to the Cup Series three races sooner than Kyle Busch did in 2015 after suffering a broken leg and a broken foot in an Xfinity Series race at Daytona. As you know, Busch won the 2015 Chase.

But Busch made the Chase by winning multiple races over the summer months. Stewart hasn't won a race since 2013 when he won at Dover. He's struggled with the higher-downforce setups the Sprint Cup Series rules have employed over the past two seasons and the lower-downforce rules this year should be to his benefit. But how much to his benefit? We're about to find out.
I heard about his return at Richmond on my local "News at Noon" Thursday. It'll be good to see him back in his car. Good plan to not run the entire race at 'Dega too. It would be a great finish to see him make the Chase after all this, but it's going to be hard to do.
Richmond was his first win, his rookie year, 1999. Happy news, and I agree, a wreck at Talladega will not do him good, so get in the car, start the race and let Ty Dillon bring it home...

Not sure I can expect a Chase run, but hopefully he gets a win...I would settle for a top five right now.