Confirmed: Stewart leaves Sprint Cup after 2016, Bowyer replaces him for 2017
Months-old speculations have finally been confirmed at a press conference taking place Wednesday morning. Three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart officially announced that that he would step away from full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition following the 2016 season. “Next year will be my last year in the Sprint Cup Series. It was a choice that was 100 percent mine. I think deep down, you know when it’s time to do something different.” Stewart said on his departure from NASCAR.
In addition to being a three-time champion as a driver (2002, 2005, 2011) and two-time champion as a team owner (2011, 2014), Stewart also accumulated many other titles in his career, including the 1997 IndyCar title and 2006 IROC championship title. He was also 1996 Indy 500 Rookie of the Race. With that in mind, it was expected that Stewart won’t depart from racing in general, and he confirmed that, saying: “I’m still going to race,” Stewart clarified. “I’m not retiring from racing, I’m just retiring from the Sprint Cup Series.” After a horrible 2014 accident which was fatal to Kevin Ward Jr, Stewart struggled to return to top shelf racing, but the same year, his team Stewart-Haas Racing won the Sprint Cup title with Kevin Harvick.
During the same conference, his replacement has been announced as well. Michael Waltrip Racing’s Clint Bowyer will be his successor, which was a decision personally made by Stewart. “Today is an incredible opportunity and I’m proud and excited to take over the No. 14 in 2017,” Bowyer said in a team release. “Whether it’s racing him on Sunday or watching my dirt late model teams race at his famed Eldora Speedway, Tony and I share the same passion for racing. That makes this opportunity a perfect fit for me. I appreciate everything he’s done for me and the sport of auto racing. These are big shoes to fill, but boy am I ever looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a champion’s ride, and have Tony there with me along the way.”
When asked about his 2016 plans, Bowyer said that there’s going to be some announcements later in the week. Needless to say, we’re eager to hear the news and hope both drivers will continue their successful careers one way or another and car #14 will see more podiums in the future.