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Tony Stewart faces various options for NASCAR race in Michigan

Tony Stewart still hasn't announced whether he plans to race this weekend at Michigan International Speedway
Tony Stewart is in danger of missing the 10-race Sprint Cup title playoff

NASCAR is heading to one of its fastest tracks with a major question looming over the weekend: Will Tony Stewart show up?

Stewart has not yet announced if he plans to race at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday in the aftermath of the incident in which Stewart's car struck and killed another driver, 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr., while he was on foot during a non-NASCAR race in upstate New York.

Funeral services for Ward were scheduled Thursday in Turin, N.Y., at the high school he attended.

During a sprint-car race Saturday night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, a half-mile dirt track, Ward was struck by Stewart's car after Ward climbed from his wrecked vehicle, stood on the track and appeared to angrily gesture toward Stewart as Stewart circled back around.

Stewart, 43, has not been charged with any wrongdoing but an investigation by the Ontario County Sheriff's Office is continuing.

Stewart, a three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, pulled out of last Sunday's Cup race in Watkins Glen, N.Y., which took place only hours after the fatal incident.

Sprint cars are a type of open-wheel race cars. The Sprint Cup Series is named after the telecommunications company that's a NASCAR sponsor.

Regan Smith, who normally drives in NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series, drove Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet at Watkins Glen and finished 37th after being involved in a crash.

There are a few different scenarios Stewart faces at Michigan:

He could skip the entire weekend -- which includes practice and qualifying Friday, two more practices Saturday and the race Sunday -- and again use a substitute driver. Or he could resume his normal schedule and be in the car all three days.

Stewart also has the option of driving in the race Sunday but using a substitute driver for the practices and qualifying.

But Stewart must start the race to collect any championship points. And with four races left until NASCAR's 10-race Chase for the Cup title playoff starts, he is in danger of missing the 16-driver Chase.

Drivers with wins so far this season earn Chase berths along with those winless drivers who are highest in the point standings. Stewart does not have a victory this year and is 21st in the standings, currently too low to make the Chase.

Michigan International, a two-mile oval, is hosting its second Cup race of the season. Jimmie Johnson won the first race in June.

Kevin Harvick won the pole position for that race with a track-record qualifying speed of 204.557 mph, and 20 drivers qualified for the race at average speeds topping 200 mph.

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Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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