Stewart Happy To Be Back In The Saddle
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on July 21, 2014 | 3:02 P.M. EST
Tony Stewart won in his return to sprint cars last weekend and has more races planned this season. (Photo: Getty Images)
Tony Stewart says he plans to run more sprint car races this season after climbing back into one this past weekend for the first time since breaking his leg last year.
Stewart admits, though, that he won’t run as many sprint car races as he hoped.
“I sat down with our management and just tried to pick some places that we knew that might not be as high-risk as others because of speed and everything,’’ Stewart said Monday in a conference call with reporters. “We tried to pick some tracks that we thought might be a little slower. I’ve tried to be smart about where we’re going. We’ve done a lot of things safety wise with the car that I feel comfortable with. I’m just trying to be smart with the amount of races we run this year.’’
Last Friday, Stewart competed in his first sprint car race since breaking his right leg, winning the Sprint on Dirt feature race at Tri-City Motor Speedway in Auburn, Mich. The win was a shock, in a way.
“To be perfectly honest I didn’t know,’’ Stewart of winning the feature event.
Stewart said he was third on the final restart and didn’t realize the leader had been pushed off the track by a lapped car. Stewart said he thought he was second after passing for that position.
He competed with the series the following night and placed third at Crystal (Mich.) Motor Speedway after starting the feature eighth. Stewart won his heat race.
Stewart broke his right tibia and fibula Aug. 5 in a sprint car crash at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Three surgeries followed and he missed the remaining 15 Sprint Cup races last season. Stewart climbed back into a sprint car May 26 in a test, tweeting: “This was a huge day for me. 9 1/2 months since I’ve been in one.’’
Stewart said his first sprint car race was to have been in early June but it was rained out. This past weekend proved to be the best chance for him to run a sprint car. He raced in Michigan because he wasn’t comfortable making his sprint car return with the World of Outlaws since that series was in Pennsylvania last weekend.
“That’s probably the toughest place in the country,’’ Stewart said of running in Pennsylvania. “I didn’t feel like that was the best place to try to go back for the first time.’’
Stewart said that running as well as he did in the sprint car last weekend was a confidence boost. He has yet to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race this season and is not in a position to make the Chase with seven races left before the 16-team field is set.
“When you necessarily haven’t been a contender to be in the top two or three each week and having those opportunities to win races, you start questioning what is it in the equation that you’re missing,’’ Stewart said. “It’s easy as a driver. We’re all finicky when it comes to running bad and you sit there and start questioning if you’re doing something wrong or you’re not adapting to the cars.
“You start questioning what is it and is it something that you’re doing or not doing as a driver. To be able to go out and win on Friday night and run third on Saturday night, to have two good runs like that in a car I haven’t been in for almost a full year that was a big confidence boost and made me feel like maybe we’re just needing to find something else. It’s nice to hopefully eliminate a variable from that side of it.and feel like it’s not necessarily what you’re doing behind the wheel.’’