Tony Stewart hospitalized with back injury after accident

Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart has been hospitalized with an unspecified back injury after crashing an all-terrain vehicle near San Diego on Sunday.

Stewart-Haas Racing spokesman Mike Arning said an update on Stewart’s condition likely will not come until late Thursday afternoon. The team is not disclosing what hospital Stewart is at or where the accident took place.

Stewart is scheduled to race in the Feb. 13 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway. The team has not said whether his latest injury will keep him from competing in the non-points event.

SHR issued the following statement Tuesday: “Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, sustained a back injury in a non-racing accident Sunday afternoon. Stewart was transported to a local hospital following the accident and is currently being evaluated. Stewart is awake and alert, and able to move all extremities. An update will be provided Thursday afternoon when more information is known.”

The unspecified injury is the latest setback for Stewart, who is planning to begin his final season as a Sprint Cup driver.

Photos: Three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart through the years

In August 2013, Stewart suffered a double compound fracture of the right leg in a sprint car accident in Iowa.

The following August, he was involved in a fatal sprint car crash in Upstate New York, when his car struck Kevin Ward Jr., who had gotten out of his crashed car and ran toward Stewart. A grand jury concluded that the filing of criminal charges was not warranted, but Ward’s family filed a wrongful death suit, which is still pending.

Stewart, who will turn 45 this year, has 48 career Sprint Cup race victories and three championships. He also won the Indy Racing League championship and the USAC Triple Crown.

But he has not won a NASCAR race since his accident in Iowa in 2013, making 77 winless starts since finishing first at Dover International Speedway in June 2013.

Speaking to reporters at the Rolex 24 at Daytona last week, AJ Foyt expressed sympathy for Stewart and said the driver has not gotten over Ward’s death. Stewart considers Foyt his hero and idolized the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner as a child.

"I feel sorry for Tony. I think people don’t realize that wreck really hurt him more," Foyt said. "He’s really a soft-hearted person and something like that really bothers you. I know I had an accident years ago when I ran IMC and a guy ran through the cockpit with me and threw me out on the racetrack and he lost his life. That bugged me and I had nothing to do with it.

"Things like that bother you for a long time. If you don’t have no feelings, it wouldn’t bother you, but Tony’s got a lot of feelings. And I just hope he goes out on top."

Stewart had spent much of the off-season working to get in shape for his final NASCAR season.

“I’ve got to get new uniforms, because they’re baggy now,” Stewart said during the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour two weeks ago. “Got re-measured. We’re eating better, drinking better, working out, doing stuff that I swore I would never do.

“And I’m doing it in my last year. I’m still trying to figure out why I’m doing it in my last year, when I could just go do what I’ve been doing for all these years.”

Asked if he’d sworn off beer, Stewart smiled.

“I just swear off how much of it I have,” he said. “I’ve changed my diet. I’ve changed everything for this year. If anybody has any questions as to how dedicated we are to having the best year we can possibly have, that’s their answer.”

“We have received word from Stewart-Haas Racing of Tony Stewart’s accident and injury,” the statement said. “On behalf of everyone at NASCAR, I wish Tony a full recovery and look forward to seeing him back in our sport when he’s ready to return.”