DOVER, Del. (AP) – Tony Stewart suffered his first serious hit since his return from a back injury during in a fiery three-car wreck at practice Friday at Dover International Speedway that also involved Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Danica Patrick.
Patrick’s No. 10 dumped oil on the track, spun and the rear of her Chevrolet burst into flames. Stewart was behind her and the No. 14 hit the oil and smacked the wall.
Stewart, who told his team over the radio the hit hurt, held his helmet and was whisked away in a golf cart. He returned later in practice in backup cars, as did Patrick and the third driver collected in the wreck, Jamie McMurray, who slammed into the wall and held his left elbow as he left the track medical center.
Stewart, who will retire at the end of this season, missed the first eight races of the season with a fractured vertebra suffered in a January all-terrain vehicle accident.
“You worry for Tony, just making sure he is OK after everything he has gone through physically,” Patrick said.
Kurt Busch, a third SHR driver, complained of gear issues in his Chevy and pulled off the track. Greg Zipadelli, SHR vice president of competition, said Patrick’s car suffered from gear issues.
Stewart and McMurray both hit an unprotected portion of the wall. Dover just completed the installation of 479 feet of SAFER barriers along the backstretch and into the entrance of Turn 3. That includes 78 feet of standard SAFER barriers to the existing inside backstretch wall and 401 feet in front of a new, steel post inside wall.
Patrick two weeks ago suffered perhaps the most frightening crash of her career when her car caught fire and ran smack into an energy-absorbing wall at Talladega with eight laps to go. She was bruised and it hurt to breathe.
“All the experiences I’ve had hitting the wall, the ones where you hit the wall I think I saw it’s about twice the G-load impact when you hit a non-safer barrier,” Patrick said Friday. “It shouldn’t even be a question whether or not tracks have SAFER barrier all the way around. It should be mandatory. It shouldn’t be a financial decision.”