Garry Rogers says his squad will need to make a call on its plans for the rest of the Supercars season, if Richie Stanaway is not fit to return by the end of next month.
Stanaway has been ruled out of next weekend’s Watpac Townsville 400 due to neck pain he has been battling since early May.
It curtailed his running at a test day on May 15, with Stanaway forced to withdraw midway through the Winton race meeting, before missing Hidden Valley altogether.
PIRTEK Enduro Cup co-driver Chris Pither substituted for Stanaway on those occasions, while Tickford co-driver Michael Caruso has been called in for Townsville.
Stanaway’s injury, confirmed by a post-Winton MRI, is a nerve impingement in his neck.
Following medical advice, the Kiwi has not had surgery, instead undergoing anti-inflammatory treatments and a cortisone injection, following a pre-Darwin flare-up.
With those treatments aimed at relieving pain, further time has been deemed necessary for Stanaway to strengthen his neck muscles and heal.
Neck muscles endure significant g-forces in racing cars, with Stanaway admitting that his crash in practice at Winton was a result of being unable to hold his neck upright.
Rogers told Supercars.com the nature of the injury has made it difficult for Boost Mobile Racing to plan around.
“Obviously we thought he’d be back by now and on the medical advice I have gotten, there’s an issue that is not right,” he said.
“My concern is that, it seems to be that everyone thinks it’s alright and then it’s not alright. That’s very difficult for us as a team to continually work around.
“I can only be advised by what the best medical people should know, so I’m only going on that.
“He wants to drive and every time I speak to him about it he says it’s improving, but then it’s not improving.
“He’s of the opinion that he’ll be right for Queensland Raceway [on July 26-28], but I’m not so sure of that, and neither is he, I don’t think.”
Stanaway joined GRM for 2019 alongside sponsor Boost Mobile, in a surprise January move that ended veteran Garth Tander’s full-time career.
Stanaway pictured pre-season
“It’s frustrating for us and it’s frustrating for Boost,” continued Rogers of the current situation.
“He’s a brand ambassador for them and we’re trying to do the right thing by all the parties concerned.
“Clearly, we need to make some team decisions very, very shortly.
"If he’s not ready for Queensland Raceway, we’ve got to decide. We’re starting to get closer to the enduros, we’ve got to put some plans in place.
“I’ll seek further advice from medical people between now and then and just see where we go.”
Rogers stressed having Stanaway back in the car remains the team’s hope, underlining his belief in the 27-year-old’s ability.
Stanaway has a strong international pedigree, including victories in Formula 1 feeder class GP2, and won Supercars' Sandown 500 as a co-driver in 2017.
However, a rookie full-time Supercars campaign last year with Tickford proved difficult, while his best result across the first 13 races of 2019 with GRM was a 14th.
“There’s absolutely no doubt about his driving skills,” said Rogers.
“He hasn’t had the best results, but we’ve probably at times not given him the best equipment to do it. But he’s certainly the person [for the job], no problem.”