Wait Over for Stewart
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on February 14, 2014 | 6:52 P.M. EST
Tony Stewart settles into his car just before heading out to practice Friday at Daytona International Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Tony Stewart’s tardiness has led those close to him to joke that he operates on “Tony time,” but he was in his car ready to go nearly 20 minutes before Friday’s first practice for the Sprint Unlimited.
“I didn’t want to wait anymore,’’ he said. “Every five minutes I was looking at the clock from 3 o’clock on.’’
Friday marked the first time he’s been on a track since he severely broke his right leg - which required three surgeries - in an Aug. 5 sprint car crash in Iowa.
Stewart couldn’t stop smiling Friday and said he felt no pain in his leg after running in the first to two practice session.
Stewart was the fastest car on the first lap of the opening practice session. He ran 24 laps and ranked 10th among 18 cars in practice with a top lap of 197.377 mph. He ran 26 laps in the final practice session - more than any other driver - with a top lap of 197.994 mph.
“It was crazy how it felt like it was yesterday that we were doing the same thing,’’ Stewart said.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the fastest in the first session with a top lap of 198.421 mph. Kyle Busch was next at 198.255 mph. Jimmie Johnson was last at 190.359 mph but he never ran in the draft.
In the final practice session, Denny Hamlin posted the fastest lap at 199.867 mph. Jamie McMurray was next at 199.645 mph.
The only issue Stewart had in the first session was missing where he had to stop to have his tire temperatures checked by Goodyear after completing a run.
“That was the first time we got on the brakes hard with new pads, the second time it stopped a lot better,’’ he said.
The No. 1 priority now?
“Just do the same things we always do,’’ Stewart said. “Just go through the steps to figure out how to make the car better.’’