Racing Is The Best Medicine

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A sore rib and a busy schedule haven’t slowed the current NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion, but climbing in a race car always is the best medicine for Tony Stewart.

One of many NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers participating in NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Las Vegas – the continuation of the annual preseason tests that began several weeks ago at Daytona International Speedway – Stewart exercised both wit and wisdom during Wednesday’s lunch break.

He pronounced a sore right rib bothersome during a visit with media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but something only time would heal. Stewart suffered the injury during a midget event earlier this month, but hasn’t allowed it to park him. He participated in last week’s Rolex 24 at Daytona at Daytona International Speedway, and Wednesday marked his second day of Las Vegas testing.

“It’s nothing but watching the days go by on the calendar,” Stewart said of treatment solutions.

His days, recently, have included some interesting activities. Two weeks ago, Stewart’s Joe Gibbs Racing team visited the White House as 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champions, meeting with President George Bush in the Oval Office and posing for photographs with a show car on the lawn.

“It was cool,” Stewart admitted. “It was fun. You know me, I’m always a guy who’s off the beaten path, and we walked in there, and I said, ‘Hi boss,’ and he said, ‘What’s up, dude?’

“For the president of the United States to say, ‘What’s up, dude?’ that made my trip right there.”

Newly-promoted car chief Jason Shapiro claimed the other highlight, according to Stewart, who said Shapiro gave the president a friendly pat on the backside. The Secret Service, it seems, wasn’t fazed.

Still, Stewart admitted, “I started backing away from the president at that point.”

Levity aside, 2006 beckons, and Stewart won’t be drawn into preseason predictions. He’s also not changing how he views, or begins, a season. A two-time series champion (his first title came in 2002), he knows that comfort and consistency are paramount early, and he prefers the familiar.

“A season’s still a season,” Stewart said. “Let’s not re-invent the wheel. We’re starting this year with the same guys and the same attitude we did the year before and the year before that.”

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