Stewart tries to stay busy during recovery
September 03, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
Related: Stewart says no schism with Haas | Stewart covers wide range of topics
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart will be at Richmond International Raceway for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, but as a spectator rather than a competitor.
It will be the first time back at the track for the 42-year-old racer and co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing since he broke his right leg in an Aug. 5 sprint car crash in Oskaloosa, Iowa.
Stewart spoke to members of the media Tuesday at SHR, his first public appearance since suffering the injury.
"Oddly enough, I actually miss you guys," Stewart told about two dozen media members, "which tells you I'm not healthy yet."
Stewart will not be back in a race car this year and may not be cleared to test in January when Cup teams travel to Daytona for Preseason Thunder.
Veteran Mark Martin will handle the driving duties of the team's No. 14 Chevrolet for the remainder of the 2013 season.
Bedridden for the majority of his time since the injury -- although he admitted to a recent "scooter race" with SHR personnel -- Stewart is preparing to embark upon sponsorship appearances as well as attending this week's Cup race.
On Wednesday, Stewart is scheduled to appear at a Bass Pro Shop in Tallahassee, Fla. The following day, he will make a Bass Pro stop in Richmond, Va. Bass Pro, along with Mobil 1, are primary sponsors for Stewart's Cup team.
"This is probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to deal with," said Stewart. "This is definitely the worst injury I've ever had in my life and racing career. It's … been a big change from being probably one of the busiest drivers on the schedule to being in bed seven days a week, 24 hours a day."
In addition to a 38-race Cup schedule, Stewart has raced often in open-wheel sprints and is one of the sport's biggest supporters of local short-track racing. He owns Eldora Raceway, which hosted the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series earlier this season.
His Tony Stewart Racing organization fields World of Outlaws teams for drivers Donnie Schatz and Steve Kinser, as well as a USAC team with driver Bryan Clauson.
This year, Stewart said his own racing schedule included 115 events. While he admits that was perhaps a bit more aggressive than he anticipated, he expects to be back racing outside of Cup next year as well.
"If I got hit by a car coming to the shop and this injury happened, I would have missed the same thing," he said. "You can't guard against everything. Everything I do, we try to make sure we're as safe about it as possible. It was an accident. … Just like Bobby's deal (last) week. That’s whey they call them accidents. Nobody does it on purpose.”
Fellow Cup driver Bobby Labonte suffered three broken ribs in a cycling accident and is sidelined indefinitely.
Stewart said there are no more surgeries scheduled on his right leg. He underwent two operations following the accident -- the first to clean and treat the wound and a second three days later to insert a titanium rod.
"They've actually … taken out 90 percent of the stitches," he said. "The skin is healing really well. … The rest of those stitches will come out … this weekend. Then we'll be done with that.
"Not out of the wood as far as infection … the doctor said if we can get through the first two months and not have any dramas with infection, then the odds of getting it are really,really low. We're halfway there on that. The skin keeps heeling faster than … anticipated."