Stewart still weeks from knowing when he can drive again

  • Tony Stewart hangs out in the garage during practice for Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Thursday, April 7, 2016. Ralph Lauer

  • Kevin Harvick (right) talks with Tony Stewart during Sprint Cup Series practice at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth on Thursday. Stewart is still recovering from a broken back. AP

Associated Press
Published: 4/10/2016 12:02:21 AM

FORT WORTH, Texas – Tony Stewart is anxiously waiting to find out when he will be able to return from a broken back to debut in what is supposed to be his last season as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. He still has a few more weeks before getting that answer.

Stewart had X-rays last month to make sure rods and screws surgically implanted after his offseason buggy accident were still in place and not moving. He will have more scans at the end of this month.

“Then (doctors) will be able to have an idea of when exactly it’s going to happen,” Stewart said. “The hard part is just waiting until we get scanned.”

Until then, Stewart will continue in his role as co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing while Brian Vickers and Ty Dillon share the role as the replacement driver in Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet.

“It’s kind of been a window of what next year’s going to be like in all reality,” Stewart said Thursday night. “Even though it’s been negative to be out of the car, I think it’s been positive to know that we’ve got a lot to look forward to next year.”

Stewart said he feels great, doing everything in the last week that he wanted to do. He said his rehabilitation is going well, and that doctors were even OK after he pushed things on his own.

“If you step off the curb wrong or if you step too hard, you’re definitely reminded that you have these rods in your back,” Stewart said. “Other than that, I feel really well. . . . I’m anxious to get the scans. It’s driving me crazy wanting to see what it looks like and then to listen to the diagnosis of when they think they’re going to let me go.”

Stewart was honored Thursday night during the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame ceremony for helping raise more than $1.5 million for Speedway Children’s Charities with his annual “Smoke Show” fantasy camp and other contributions.

The three-time Sprint Cup champion, who turns 45 on May 20, fractured his vertebra while riding an all-terrain vehicle on California sand dunes Jan 31. He has to let his back heal properly or risk suffering more severe injuries.

“Probably more than anything, I’ve just missed driving the race car,” he said. “It’s not been about the racing side of it as much as it’s been driving the race car. That’s what I’ve really missed the most to this point.”

Stewart said he is not pinpointing a specific race as a target date to be back in the driver’s seat since he has no control over when that can happen. Doctors will have to clear him for NASCAR to let him back in a car.

“No point in putting yourself in agony when you know it’s still in their hands,” Stewart said. “Literally trying to do everything within reason that they tell you do, and wait until they say it’s OK. When they say it’s time to go, we’ll go.”

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