RELATED: Sprint Unlimited entry list
The Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet will be eligible to run in the Sprint Unlimited even without Tony Stewart in the seat, NASCAR Executive Vice President & Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Thursday.
Stewart will miss the Sprint Unlimited and the Daytona 500 due to severe back injuries sustained in an all-terrain vehicle crash. The three-time series champion had automatically qualified for the Sprint Unlimited field as a previous event winner.
Sources told NASCAR.com that Brian Vickers has emerged as SHR's top target to replace Stewart in the seat of the No. 14 at Daytona. Vickers, 32, competed in only two races last season for Michael Waltrip Racing after missing time due to a recurrence of blood clots.
RELATED: Vickers targeted for No. 14 seat
"(Vickers) is medically cleared," O'Donnell said. "Stewart-Haas is still looking at communicating the driver of that vehicle, (but) we have made the decision to allow the 14 car to participate in the (Sprint Unlimited).
"When we looked at it, it's due to some unforeseen circumstances. A lot of prep work went into that car. There are a lot of implications for the 14 not being in that race. In this instance, we made the decision to allow the 14 to participate."
SHR will announce its Sprint Unlimited driver on Friday.
In the official entry list released Thursday night, Casey Mears and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were late additions. Jeff Gordon (who had qualified as a 2015 Coors Light Pole Award winner) and David Gilliland (former Daytona 500 pole winner) aren't in the field, and Mears and Stenhouse were the next two eligible drivers.