By Jim Peltz
3:57 PM EDT, September 3, 2013
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- Tony Stewart asserted Tuesday at the Stewart-Haas race shop that his broken bones would mend in time for the 2014 Daytona 500 and that the organization he co-owns with Gene Haas was never fractured in the first place.
Holding his first news conference since severely breaking his right leg a month ago, three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart said Tuesday it was "definitely the worst injury I've ever had."
Stewart, 42, suffered the injury Aug. 5 in a crash during a sprint-car race in Iowa. He required two surgeries to repair the leg and now faces weeks of physical therapy.
"We're focused on being ready for Daytona" in February, Stewart said of the season-opening Daytona 500 next year. "I am feeling a lot better. I can't wait to get back in a race car."
The press conference was held in Kannapolis, N.C., at the headquarters of the three-car NASCAR team that Stewart co-owns, Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart arrived at the podium in a wheelchair.
Often cantankerous with the media, Stewart this time fielded questions on several topics for more than hour and largely withheld any sarcasm, although at the start he quipped, "I actually miss you guys, which tells you I'm not healthy yet."
Among the topics he covered:
-- No additional surgeries are required on the leg, Stewart said, adding that "everything is progressing really well."
-- Stewart said he supported his team's other co-owner, Gene Haas, orchestrating the hiring of driver Kurt Busch for next year while Stewart was laid up. But Stewart said he was concerned about whether the team could gear up fast enough to support four cars in 2014.
"There was never one argument between us," Stewart said of himself and Haas. "I just expressed my concern about the timing of it."
-- Stewart said he received a huge outpouring of support, including "850 text messages in the first 36 hours after the accident."
-- Stewart said he would keep racing sprint cars in addition to his primary NASCAR stock-car racing duties after he recovers, but that he would cut back on his sprint-car races, which were to total about 70 this year.
-- He plans to attend Saturday night's NASCAR race in Richmond, Va., where Mark Martin will drive Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet.
Additional reporting by Reid Spencer, Reuters
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