Tony Stewart hopes first victory will ease perpetual pain

Tony Stewart hurts every day — about 97 percent of the time, from the morning when he wakes up to shut-eye time at night.

But the other 3 percent rocks.

"I don't feel pain in the race car," he said. "I haven't from Daytona on through even this past weekend. So I know that's probably around 3 percent of my week that I spend in the race car, but as long as that 3 percent is comfortable and I can enjoy doing what I'm doing, I can deal with the pain the other 97 percent of the week."

You should know the back story by now: Stewart went crash-bam-boom at a half-mile dirt oval event in Oskaloosa, Iowa, on Aug. 5, 2013. The collateral damage included a broken right tibia and fibula, requiring three surgical procedures.

Stewart, a three-time Cup champion, didn't qualify for NASCAR's postseason Chase last year. And without a win this year in a revised playoff format, Stewart stands precariously close to not making the cut again.

He is 19th in points heading into The Brickyard at Indianapolis this weekend, hoping for a little home-state mojo. But first, a pit stop in Eldora, where Stewart will pay homage to dirt again in the Camping World Truck Series "Mudsummer Classic" scheduled for Wednesday night.

Stewart, who owns the dirt track in Rossburg, Ohio, won't be competing and only will be a gracious host. But anyone who thinks that Stewart has been scared straight doesn't know much about him.

Racing is Stewart's passion, whether it's paved tracks or dirt ones. Dirt-racing is his leisurely hobby, which is why he was at the Tri-City Motor Speedway in Auburn, Mich., competing last Friday night.

He also happened to win the race.

Stewart loves the best of both worlds and will not be compromised by naysayers, so there's no point in telling him to stop.

The question now becomes whether he makes it to the Chase to silence those who can reasonably argue that he wouldn't be in this predicament in the first place had he not gone dirt-track racing.

"As much as the emphasis is on wins and not points racing, we're kind of in a position where we're close to being in that part of it as well where we could get in on points, but a win would solve that," Stewart said. "It's kind of a double-edged sword right now. Do you get yourself in a position where you go for the win and risk — if you run second — losing that opportunity? Or do you sit there and say, 'Well, I need to have a solid points day because we have the opportunity on the other side of the coin.' "

Stewart has seven races to make it happen before the 16-driver cutoff after the September race in Richmond. It would be nice to see him in the mix. Stewart often could win Most Prickly Driver In The Garage honors in any given season, but his acerbic personality is refreshing from the homogenized chit-chat along pit road.

He's also a darn good racer, regardless of what he's driving.

On to Eldora, then Indy, it is, hoping that the 3-percent thrill ride alleviates a painful season.

gdiaz@tribune.com Read George Diaz's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/enfuego

TV money dynamics

The Cold War keeps simmering in a power struggle for the keys to NASCAR.

Influential owners are jostling with the France family, trying to share the perks of the joyride that's getting far more lucrative. The new TV deals in place with Fox and NBC are expected to pay $820 million a year for the next 10 years, up 46 percent from the previous ones.

Under the terms of the contracts, 25 percent will go to the race teams, 65 percent will go to the tracks and 10 percent goes to NASCAR.

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