Stewart Eager to Get Back in Car
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on December 5, 2013 | 7:14 P.M. EST
Tony Stewart said receiving the Myers Brothers Award on Thursday has "made my whole week.'' (Photo: Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - The everyday moments we take for granted are returning to Tony Stewart.
There was the camaraderie shared by friends and competitors Thursday at the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Luncheon in the Encore Ballroom at the Wynn. They chatted with Stewart and checked on how well his right leg is healing after it was broken Aug. 5 in a sprint car crash in Iowa.
Stewart displayed his walk. He limps, and he’ll likely have it the rest of his life, but his gait was steady. He didn’t need a cane as he walked across the stage to accept the Myers Brothers Award for his contributions to the sport, sharing an honor that has been presented to Motor Racing Network, Barney Hall, Bill France Sr., and Jeff Gordon, among others.
Being able to walk again without assistance is the reward of hours of therapy for Stewart. The payoff from the sweat and even tears will be realized in February when he returns to the car for next year’s Daytona 500.
He’d like to be in a car sooner, he admits.
“As much as I want to, I don’t think they’re going to let me,’’ Stewart said.
While he rehabilitates his right leg, ankle and foot, Mark Martin will test for Stewart’s team in the offseason.
Stewart admits challenges remain in his recovery.
The biggest obstacle is not the leg that was shattered and has a titanium rod in it, or his knee or even his ankle - which is a focus of his therapy - but his toes on his right foot.
When one walks, you push off on your toes.
“That’s one of the hardest things for me to do right now,’’ Stewart said. “We’re somewhat worried about that for Daytona. We feel like that might be a challenge down there. Daytona, even though it would seem like the easiest place to go to, you’re on the gas so long duration-wise, there’s no opportunity to get off the gas and give (the right foot and toes) a break. We’re working on the strength part of it.’’
Still, Stewart says he’s being told that he’s ahead of schedule even with the third surgery Oct. 7 for an infection.
One area that isn’t a challenge is his appetite. He says it’s back and so is his energy. Stewart said he lost 16 pounds shortly after the crash, noting that “food didn’t taste good, didn’t smell good.’’
This from a pizza-and-burger guy. Instead, shortly after his accident, there was one thing he would eat.
“They couldn’t bring ice fast enough,’’ he said. “I’ve never seen somebody eat so much ice in their life.’’
For as good as he’s feeling, the surprise of receiving the Myers Brothers Award, presented annually since 1958 was nearly overwhelming.
“It’s very unexpected for sure,’’ said Stewart, who missed the final 15 races of this season. “I’m very humbled by it.’’
It was an easy choice for the press, which selects the recipient. Stewart’s Eldora (Ohio) Speedway hosted the Camping World Truck Series, the first time any of NASCAR’s national series ran on dirt since 1970. The event created a buzz in the sport, and Eldora is back on the Truck schedule in 2014.
Stewart said he was in Las Vegas just to support crew chief Matt Borland for an award Borland won.
Then came the introduction of the Myers Brothers Award and the surprise was unveiled.
“When they said a driver and owner, I was like I haven’t seen Michael (Waltrip) over here,’’ Stewart said about when he started realize he was receiving the award. “I was sitting there with the phone in my hands about to text my pilots that it was almost over and that they needed to head that way. I had to put my phone down. I wasn’t all prepared for anything like that. It’s made my whole week.’’