LAS VEGAS, NV: Competitors and fans alike were delighted to see three-time Cup Champion, Tony Stewart, back at a NASCAR track in Las Vegas this weekend. Stewart has been absent behind the wheel since suffering a back injury in late January.
The injury, sustained during an off-road accident navigating the sand dunes on a beach in San Diego, have sidelined the driver/team owner from racing in what was planned to be his final season behind the wheel of a Cup car.
Stewart addressed the media earlier today at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and the question on everyone’s mind was, ‘When will we see Tony Stewart back in the car.”
That was the one question that had no easy answers.
“I wish I knew. We’re anxious to get these x-rays done, to kind of figure out where we’re at,” said Stewart. “We really don’t have any clue how far this has gone since the surgery. I’m probably more eager than anybody to know what the result of this is going to be.”
Tony Stewart underwent surgery last month and is expecting more news this coming Wednesday, when he will meet with his doctors.
“I don’t know how you can predict when you’re going to be back in the car when they haven’t even done an X-ray since you’ve been operated on,” he said. “If we do something that messes it up or try to do something too soon, it could affect me for the rest of my life.”
Sounding like a calm, patient Tony Stewart that we are not used to, he admitted that he was breaking doctor’s orders by traveling cross-country to Las Vegas.
“I can’t lie in bed any longer, it is about to kill me,” quipped the 44-year old driver. “I would rather be here and be in pain than be at home and be comfortable with no pain. The pain is worth it to me. I don’t mind.”
“We did everything short of bubble-wrap me to get me on the plane to ride out here. We were as comfortable as we could be. We feel pretty good, actually. It’s like anything else. Your body tells you when you’ve had enough, when it’s sore. And we try to listen to it.”
Stewart went on to confirm that Ty Dillon and Brian Vickers would continue sharing the driving duties in the #14 Chevrolet until Stewart is able to return to driving. He also assured us that, once he was cleared to drive, that he would not hold back.
“We’ll play the rest of the year out,” he said. “As soon as they tell me I can be back in the car, I’m going to be wide-open, 100 percent. I’m not going to leave anything on the table each race. It’s get everything I can get. At the end of the year we got what we got. I’ll go on with the rest of it afterwards.”
Stewart is hoping for a medical waiver to ensure that he remains Chase eligible, but without a timeline for his return, this is a question that will be tackled as more news regarding his condition becomes available.
When pressed as to whether or not he would consider another Daytona 500, since he missed his final one, he closed the book on that chapter.
“I’m not considering it, Not even one percent.”
Image: Waylon Oakes/Drafting the Circuits