Tony Stewart up next in NASCAR list of winless stars in 2014

dscott@charlotteobserver.com May 31, 2014 

  • 2014 Sprint Cup winners

    Driver Wins
    Kevin Harvick2
    Joey Logano2
    Kyle Busch1
    Kurt Busch1
    Dale Earnhardt Jr.1
    Carl Edwards1
    Jeff Gordon1
    Denny Hamlin1
    Jimmie Johnson1
    Brad Keselowski1

— With Jimmie Johnson winning last week at Charlotte, it’s time to shift focus on another legendary driver who has yet to claim a victory this season on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series.

Step right up, Tony Stewart, who isn’t sweating it.

“We luckily have been able to win at least one race a season my entire Cup career,” said Stewart, a three-time Cup champion who starts 20th in Sunday’s FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway. “Our track record shows that we can get it. It’s just a matter of when is it going to happen?”

It last happened for Stewart a year ago, in the spring Dover race. And it wasn’t long after that his 2013 season ended. A few months later – Aug. 5 – he suffered a broken leg in a sprint car racing accident on a dirt track in Iowa. He would miss the rest of the season amidst multiple surgeries and rehab. And although Stewart has returned to drive his No. 14 Chevy in all 12 Cup races thus far this season, he’s still not back to full strength.

“I honestly thought I would be done with all this by now,” said Stewart, who is 22nd in the points standings and has just two top-five finishes this season. “As far as rehab, pain, all that stuff, I thought it would be done. I thought we would be healed 100 percent by now.

“When you haven’t gone through something like this, you don’t know what to think and don’t know how to feel about it. If it ever happens again, I will have a better idea of how to answer that.”

The ongoing physical therapy isn’t something Stewart – who has never been known as a workout buff anyway – enjoys.

“I hate it,” he said. “You sweat. You get out of breath. It is crazy. Then you feel sore. I don’t know anything about this that is good. But I know at the end of the day it’s going to make me feel a lot better.”

Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, is his own boss. That’s why he had nobody to answer to when he again got in a sprint car – a winged, open-wheel machine – at Gastonia’s Carolina Speedwaylast week. Stewart didn’t race the car, only taking it out for a few test laps.

“It’s my life,” Stewart said. “I’m going to live my life. It’s nobody else’s decision but mine. I think there are a lot of worse things I could be doing in my life than what I choose to do.

“It was fine. It was just like when I got in the Cup car. It felt like I hadn’t been out of it.”

Stewart said it won’t be long before he returns to racing sprint cars. And, while standing outside his hauler in Dover’s garage, he seemed to enjoy verbally sparring with reporters on when that might happen.

“I will be able to tell you how it went, let’s put it that way,” said Stewart. “You won’t know when it’s coming. When I go, nobody is going to know about it. I’m going to slide in and do it. I want to enjoy it. I don’t want it to be a cluster.”

Scott: 704-358-5889; Twitter: @davidscott14

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