Skip to content

Smoke’s back: Tony Stewart’s first runs at Daytona ‘like putting on an old pair of shoes’

Feb 14, 2014, 10:33 PM EDT

Tony Stewart Getty Images

Tony Stewart passed his first test and got a solid B for his effort – as in he’s B-A-C-K.

Behind the wheel of a Sprint Cup car for the first time in nearly 6 ½ months, Stewart  quickly shook off the rust and was right back at home during Friday’s two practice sessions for Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.

Stewart suffered the worst wreck of his overall racing career last Aug. 5 while competing in a sprint car race in Iowa. He suffered multiple fractures in his right leg, endured three surgeries and – almost an afterthought when you consider the extent of his injuries – missed the final 15 races of the Sprint Cup season.

But Friday, Stewart looked – and talked – in his usual form, almost as if nothing had happened to him over the last half-year.

“It felt good,” Stewart said simply about being back in the saddle again. “That is better than I was hoping for, honestly. I thought we would have some kind of ache, pain of some kind that would bother us. It was like putting on an old pair of shoes again.”

Although not one to typically show emotion – unless of course he’s blowing his stack at another driver or reporter – Stewart admitted he broke into a big smile “when we hit the end of pit road leaving,” he said. “That is way too long to wait to get back in a race car that is for sure.”

Stewart was so eager to get back on track – literally and figuratively – that he was a VERY uncharacteristically 18 minutes early to get into his race car.

“Every five minutes I was looking at the clock from 3 o’clock on going, ‘Is it 4:30 yet?’ because I wanted to get dressed at 4:30 and come in,” Stewart said. “That is a long time to be staring at the clock for an hour and a half. That is small compared to the seven months. … I didn’t want to wait anymore, to be honest.”

Stewart admitted he was a bit apprehensive of climbing through the window and into the car for the first time, but not for fear or hesitation, but rather for another key reason.

“Piece of cake, I didn’t fall,” he laughed. “I think that was what everybody was waiting for. If there was ever a time to not screw up it is getting in the car this time. About 400 cameras there so I didn’t want to be the guy that fell out of the car and got on the cover of the paper for that.”

Stewart logged 50 total laps around the 2.5-mile high banks of DIS. In the first session, he covered 24 laps with a top speed of 197.377 mph, good for 10th fastest among the 18 drivers that took part.

In the second and final Sprint Unlimited practice session, Stewart ran the most laps (26) of the 15 drivers that took part, with a top speed of 197.994 mph, good for ninth fastest.

In hindsight, once the first practice session was over, what he thought might be a big deal actually wound up being more of a business-as-usual outcome.

“I’m glad it wasn’t any bigger deal than that,” Stewart said. “That is the good part of it. I didn’t think it would just blend in like it did. It just kind of felt like any other day at the office.  Once we got off pit road and got going and actually got in the pack there, you forgot about all the other stuff and you went back to work. Just got back in the swing of things.

“For somebody who hadn’t been in a car it sure doesn’t feel like I haven’t been in a car. It feels like I was in it a week ago already. I was pleasantly surprised for that.”

Tony being Tony, he gave brief thought to taking part in a nearby short track race later Friday, but quickly wiped the idea from his mind for good reason.

“If I didn’t think Greg Zipadelli (Stewart Haas Racing vice president of competition and Stewart’s former crew chief) would absolutely kill me tonight, I would probably want to go race at Volusia (Speedway) tonight,” Stewart said “It felt that good. I don’t think Zippy would be the only guy. I think the entire organization here would probably duct tape me to the flag pole on the frontstretch so I couldn’t leave.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Latest Posts
  1. Newgarden, Pagenaud went drifting at Long Beach

    Apr 23, 2014, 11:21 AM EDT

    Photo: Formula Drift Photo: Formula Drift

    Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud enjoy drifting rides with 2013 FD champion Michael Essa.

  2. IndyCar: Andretti adds fifth car for GP of Indy for Franck Montagny

    Apr 23, 2014, 10:18 AM EDT

    Andretti Autosport driver Carlos Munoz of Colombia drives practice laps on the second day of qualifications in Indianapolis Reuters

    Andretti Autosport brings in a talented road-course ringer, Franck Montagny, for the inaugural GP of Indianapolis.

  3. Raikkonen: Yes, he’s still motivated, otherwise he wouldn’t be here

    Apr 23, 2014, 10:05 AM EDT

    KimiChina Getty Images

    Kimi Raikkonen owns critics who are questioning his motivation in typical Kimi style.

  4. Compass360 adds CTF “Art Car” to PWC

    Apr 23, 2014, 9:41 AM EDT

    Photo: CTF Photo: CTF

    Compass360′s cars will have “Art Car” design as created by an NF hero.

  5. Mike Conway ready to double up on Long Beach IndyCar win this Sunday in Alabama

    Apr 22, 2014, 9:19 PM EDT

    ConwayLB2 AP

    Mike Conway’s come-from-behind IndyCar win at Long Beach nearly two weeks ago may have been a surprise to some. But it wasn’t a surprise to team owner Ed Carpenter or Conway himself. They both had confidence in each other for a strong run and a high finish – and the win was just an added bonus.

  6. After Shanghai letdown, McLaren’s Boullier tells team ‘don’t panic’

    Apr 22, 2014, 8:40 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain - Previews Getty Images

    With McLaren’s podium-less 2013 in mind, the team’s racing director is doing all he can to keep the troops calm after a poor Chinese Grand Prix.

  7. ‘Rookie’ Kurt Busch, 1995 champ Jacques Villeneuve, three more to undergo Indy 500 orientation/refresher

    Apr 22, 2014, 8:21 PM EDT

    Jacques Villeneuve will be making his first return trip to Indianapolis since winning there in 1995 -- and only his third race ever there -- for this year's Indy 500. AP

    It’s been 14 years since Kurt Busch was last called a rookie. And even though Busch has a Sprint Cup championship trophy at home, he’s still a rookie open-wheel driver as far as the Indianapolis 500 is concerned.

  8. Red Bull tweaks Mercedes over attempt to increase ‘Fuelgate’ punishment

    Apr 22, 2014, 7:12 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China Getty Images

    Red Bull’s anonymous “Spy” says that their main rivals are getting “rattled and sweating a bit.”

  9. NASCAR AMERICA: Scan All 43 – Kurt Busch breaks winless streak, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon still without wins

    Apr 22, 2014, 6:46 PM EDT

    NASCAR America

    On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR AMERICA, Leigh Diffey and Wally Dallenbach took a look back at the March 30th STP 500 at Martinsville Raceway and Kurt Busch’s win, which snapped an 83-race winless streak. We also look back at the rain-postponed Duck Commander 500 at Texas on April 7, as well as how Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, who have 10 Sprint Cup championships between them, but neither driver has visited victory lane yet in 2014.

  10. Veteran pit crew coach Lance Munksgard leaves Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR

    Apr 22, 2014, 6:11 PM EDT

    Lance Munksgard, pit crew coach for the teams of Jimmie Johnson (above) and Dale Earnhardt Jr., has left Hendrick Motorsports to work in his family's business in Texas. (Photo courtesy Hendrick Motorsports) Lance Munksgard, pit crew coach for the teams of Jimmie Johnson (above) and Dale Earnhardt Jr., has left Hendrick Motorsports to work in his family's business in Texas. (Photo courtesy Hendrick Motorsports)

    One of the most effective and successful pit crew coaches in the business has not only left Hendrick Motorsports, he’s also left NASCAR. Lance Munksgard, who had served as coach for the pit crews of both Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. since November 2011, has returned to his native Texas to work in his family’s business, according to MRN.com.

  11. IndyCar: Helio Castroneves on probation for social media policy violation

    Apr 22, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    Pocono INDYCAR 400 Getty Images

    A critical tweet from the three-time Indy 500 champion’s account – which he says came from his sister – has put him on probation through June 30.

  12. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 5 p.m. ET

    Apr 22, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    nascar america

    It’s another “Scan All 43″ showcase today, as Races 5-8 of this year’s Sprint Cup championship are profiled.

  13. Excited to join Ed Carpenter Racing, J.R. Hildebrand has unfinished business at Indy 500

    Apr 22, 2014, 4:23 PM EDT

    Indianapolis 500 - Practice Getty Images

    If he had his way, J.R. Hildebrand would run the Indianapolis 500 tomorrow. The 2011 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year is looking forward to returning to the fabled Brickyard for this year’s edition of the 500 on May 25 for three primary reasons.

  14. Richmond’s personal for Daniel Knost, Kurt Busch’s crew chief

    Apr 22, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    STP 500 - Practice Getty Images

    He believes that a win last fall at Richmond was taken away from him and his SHR crewmates.

  15. Former CART championship and Indy 500 winning owner Steve Horne putting the ‘Super’ in V8 Supercars

    Apr 22, 2014, 3:32 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy V8Supercars.com.Au) (Photo courtesy V8Supercars.com.Au)

    After winning an Indianapolis 500 win (1986, with Bobby Rahal behind the wheel), two CART championships and five Indy Lights titles – Steve Horne went back to his native New Zealand two years ago. But Horne isn’t the retiring type. Nor is he part of a “Where Are They Now?” question. If anything, Horne is as busy as he’s ever been, both running his own team as well as serving as chairman of the V8 Supercars Commission in New Zealand and Australia.

  16. Alex Zanardi finishes 13th in Blancpain GT Sprint debut

    Apr 22, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Indianapolis 500 Getty Images

    Late clutch problems force the former CART champion and F1 pilot out of a likely Top-10 finish.

  17. See what it’s like to race Long Beach through a driver’s eyes (VIDEO)

    Apr 22, 2014, 2:34 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy MikeSkeen.com/Ben Carufel) (Photo courtesy MikeSkeen.com/Ben Carufel)

    Whether it be NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA or sports car racing, it’s become fairly routine for TV broadcasts to give in-car action during the course of a race. But it’s rare to actually see an entire race on video from the driver’s seat. That’s why we really enjoyed Mike Skeen’s video from last week’s Pirelli World Challenge GT race in Long Beach.

  18. NNS: JR Motorsports adding Super Late Model driver Austin Theriault for 3 races

    Apr 22, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT

    Drive To Stop Diabetes 300 - Practice Getty Images

    The 20-year-old has been competing for Brad Keselowski’s Super Late Model team for the past two seasons.

  19. Scratch Clint Bowyer from the ranks of NASCAR’s most eligible bachelors

    Apr 22, 2014, 1:13 PM EDT

    If Clint Bowyer is smiling more often than normal these days, it's because he's now a married man. Getty Images

    If Clint Bowyer is your heartthrob, it’s time to start looking for another as the Emporia, Kansas, native spent last weekend’s Easter break getting hitched to long time girlfriend Lorra Podsiadilo. In the Bahamas, no less.

  20. Red Bull GRC: F1/NASCAR vet Nelson Piquet Jr. to drive for SH Racing

    Apr 22, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Credit: SH Racing Rallycross Credit: SH Racing Rallycross

    The son of the three-time F1 champion is shifting gears once again.

Today on NASCAR AMERICA

More from NASCAR America

Why Gordon, Johnson haven't won yet
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. B. Myers (1415)
  2. T. Hessert (1398)
  3. J. Boston (1373)
  4. P. Kligerman (1334)
  5. A. Seuss (1330)
  1. J. Myers (1304)
  2. B. Jones (1283)
  3. C. Whitt (1268)
  4. L. Fleming (1223)
  5. B. Loftin (1164)

Featured video

Lewis Hamilton thanks his 'angels'