Stewart examined by ‘third-party experts’ before return approved

Tony Stewart climbs into his car prior to practice Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

After missing three weeks of racing, Tony Stewart had to receive approval from NASCAR to race again this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, approval that was granted.

Per NASCAR, getting approval to race again is standard operating procedure when a driver misses a number of consecutive races.

As part of that approval process, NASCAR had what president Mike Helton called "third-party experts" examine the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. Exactly who those "third-party experts" were or how many of them there were weren’t topics Helton was willing to discuss publicly, however.

Asked by what specific clearances Stewart got to return to racing, Helton said, "As typical, our process calls for us to rely on third-party experts to assure us that a NASCAR driver or a NASCAR member is ready to return. All those forms of processes were met and we cleared him based on those third-party inputs from experts."

Helton was queried by another reporter, who asked if NASCAR had received evaluations of Stewart from a psychiatrist or psychologist.

"We received the ones that we felt were relevant under the circumstances," Helton said.

Asked how those reports could be categorized, Helton said, "The ones that were relevant to these circumstances."

Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood was equally vague.

"When a driver’s out of the car, there is that process," said Frood. "I’m not going to get into the medical side of it, but I will say we’ve been in close contact with them (NASCAR) throughout the process, have gotten from them what he needed to get back in the car right now."

Helton also said Stewart has been cleared to be eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, if he wins one of the next two races.