Tony Stewart: Plans still the same
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Tony Stewart plans to continue driving sprint cars when he returns next season from a broken leg.
The three-time Sprint Cup champion also plans to make the high-powered machines in which he was injured during an Aug. 5 race in Iowa more safe.
Stewart, interviewed recently on Motor Racing Network's "Winged Nation," said he will continue driving sprint cars despite breaking the tibia and fibula in his right leg. Show co-host Kendra Jacobs told her radio audience that Stewart's sprint car team is preparing cars for his return.
"[Stewart] will not be staying away from dirt-track racing," Jacobs said after visiting with Stewart, whose injury in the sprint car ended his run at the Cup playoffs. "This has not affected any of his plans for dirt-track racing. He will be back in dirt-track racing next year. There is absolutely no reason why he would not get back into a sprint car."
Mark Martin, who will replace Stewart for 12 of the final 13 Cup races this season, said Stewart went into great detail with him this week about what caused his injury.
Martin said the drive shaft essentially came through the cockpit and hammered on Stewart's right leg, breaking the tibia and fibula. Major surgery was required to repair the leg that multiple sources said was severely damaged.
"Evidently, the rear ends can't come back because they hit the fuel cell," Martin said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. "When the car went upside down, the rear end was able to get below the fuel cell and it was able to pull like the drive shaft ... the yoke out of the front side, and that is what got him."
Added SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli: "He's kind of explaining what it is, the torque tube came out and hit him. There is protection, but obviously that hoop that is there is not enough to contain it. I think that is the area they are working in."
Martin said Stewart went into great detail on how that area of the car will be addressed, "preventing that from happening again in sprint cars."
Zipadelli said it's too early to get into whether Stewart will drive sprint cars again, saying Stewart and everyone at SHR needs to get through what has happened. But when asked about Stewart telling a radio personality he had no intentions of not driving sprint cars again, Zipadelli said, "I don't think you can take Tony Stewart and tell him he can't drive other cars."
"That is what makes him. That is who he is," he said. "Can we get him to cut his schedule back? Can we get him to look at things? Can we help with his movement to make those cars safer for everyone, including himself? Those things will be the things that come in the next couple of months."
Zipadelli said Stewart continues to struggle with not being in the car.
"He's a racer. He loves to do what he does," Zipadelli said. "I hope that and think that he will come back to Daytona [in February] with something to prove to the world, and maybe he will turn over a whole new leaf -- he hasn't got to see you guys for four or five months -- and he will be more welcoming to you.
"I don't know. I can't guarantee that."
Meanwhile, the 54-year-old Martin will begin his stint as Stewart's replacement in Saturday night's race at Bristol.
"I'm a little bit nervous about today because I feel like it is an extraordinary challenge," said Martin, who was released from his contract at Michael Waltrip Racing to replace Stewart. "I've switched around a lot, but usually you have a couple of months and a test or two to get together."
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