Stewart-Haas Racing has called a press conference Friday morning at Daytona International Speedway to announce who will drive Tony Stewart's car in the Feb. 21 season-opening Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX), and sources confirm to NASCAR.com that Brian Vickers is the leading candidate for the job.
The three-time premier series champion Stewart is sidelined for an undetermined amount of time after injuring the L1 vertebra in his back in an all-terrain vehicle accident in the desert a week ago. Stewart underwent surgery and is back home in Charlotte, North Carolina, but no timetable has been given for his return.
In the meantime, sources confirm that his SHR team is making plans for Vickers to steer Stewart's No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet in the Daytona 500.
Vickers, 32, competed in only two races last season for Michael Waltrip Racing after missing time due to a recurrence of blood clots, and he currently is in the process of getting final medical clearance to fill in for Stewart.
On Thursday, NASCAR Executive Vice President & Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell confirmed to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that NASCAR has medically cleared Vickers, should SHR elect to put him in the seat.
Vickers did not compete in the 2015 Daytona 500 , but started races in Las Vegas and Phoenix before announcing the next week at Fontana that he would be sidelined while under treatment for the clots. Because Vickers was on blood-thinning medication to deal with the blood clots, he was not cleared by doctors to race and has not made another Sprint Cup start since.
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