Daytona Notebook: Healthy, Happy Tony Stewart Ready For 2015 Season

(NASCAR Wire Service)

By Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Tony Stewart (Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Tony Stewart (Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Tony Stewart didn’t want to talk about the state of his health, but Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick was glad to oblige.

Nor was Stewart willing to use the severe fracture of the right leg he suffered in a sprint car accident in August 2013 as an excuse for a lackluster performance behind the wheel last year.

“Honestly I feel like we’re wasting our time talking about how I feel, because I didn’t feel bad last year,” Stewart told reporters during NASCAR Media Day on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway heading into Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited (8 p.m. ET on FOX).

“I did outside the car, but inside the car I felt good all year. Physically driving the car, it’s not an issue at all. It’s not one one-hundredth of a percent.”

Harvick, however, has noticed a substantive improvement in Stewart’s physical condition and in his demeanor.

“To see his progress over the winter is, for me, the most exciting part as a person, because Tony is first my friend, he’s second my owner and third, he’s —- I never really see him as the owner, I see him as my teammate,” Harvick said.

“But I’m just happy that he’s happy. You can visibly see it. I don’t have to explain it to you guys — you’ve already seen him.”

Despite missing three races in the aftermath of the fatal sprint car accident at Canandaigua Speedway, Stewart finished 25th in the final standings. As the 2015 season approaches, Harvick is thrilled to see his friend invigorated and eager to race.

“He’s got that spring in his step, and the most exciting part for me about Tony is when he walks,” Harvick said. “He doesn’t limp. He’s walking around. He can stand on his feet for hours upon hours. He’s smiling and joking and doing all the things that you would expect out of Tony.

“So that, for me… when I walked into media day and saw him walking up and down the steps and all over the place and not having to sit in a chair and worry about his leg. I mean, he’s running across the shop — no more scooters, no more limping and walking.

“So I think, as you look at all that, he’s gotten a lot of things with his leg straight. He’s gotten all his other situations situated, and I think that, hopefully, he gets back on track because he’s happy and content with where he’s at in life, it seems, from what I see from the outside looking in.”


Two years ago, Brad Keselowski gave himself a B+ in assessing his capabilities as a driver.

After a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series-best six victories last season, Keselowski apparently has gotten closer to the head of the class.

“I feel like I’m a top-three driver in the Sprint Cup Series,” Keselowski said on Thursday during a question-and-answer session with reporters at Daytona International Speedway.

Asked which two other drivers he would put in the top three, Keselowski had a surprising answer.

“I personally think just from watching, and I am not afraid to say it, that Carl Edwards is the best driver in Sprint Cup,” Keselowski said. “That is my personal opinion. It doesn’t make it law or fact, but I think to go with that you could probably place an argument for (reigning champion) Kevin (Harvick) as the second best. It is a bit subjective.”

In part, Keselowski based his opinion of Edwards’ ability to get the most out of a car that might not be handling to his liking.

“I have seen what Carl has done in cars that didn’t have the speed,” Keselowski said. “He has a very diverse skill set. He has been able to win at tracks like Sonoma and has won at every type of track, and I feel like he does the best job of any driver I have seen out there at taking a car that is not fast and finding speed out of it.

“I think when the times have come that he has had dominant cars, he has showed dominant performances which is what you have to do. He has kind of shown, to me, the skill set at every level to be a top driver.”

That’s high praise from a driver who once was Edwards’ bitter rival. But Keselowski never says anything without considering his words carefully, so was there a hidden agenda in his comments?

For now, only Keselowski knows.


Jeff Gordon likely is in total agreement with the poet Dylan Thomas who wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”

From the look of it, Gordon has no intention of making a quiet exit in his final season of full-time racing. With a lap at 196.764 mph, the driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet led Friday night’s second Sprint Unlimited practice after running sixth fastest in the opening session.

“This was like old-school drafting out there — six or seven cars,” Gordon said during a break in final practice.

The only driver to reach 200 mph in either practice, Kurt Busch topped the speed chart in the opening session with a lap at 200.749 mph.

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