I know all of us inside the garage and fans outside the garage are absolutely thrilled to see Tony Stewart back racing again. I will also be the first to admit that my heart pretty much skipped a beat when I saw him caught up in a wreck Saturday night in the Sprint Unlimited. The great news was he was fine and there will be no issues from his leg injury carrying over to the Daytona 500.
He did, however, lose an engine during practice, so that means he will have to start at the rear of the field Sunday for the 500. As you have probably heard us say time and time again, restrictor plate tracks are one of the handful of tracks were you can start dead last but by the end of the race come home the winner.
When Tony went out for that very first time last Friday for practice, you could simply see the bounce in his step and the fire in his belly. As much as that man loves to race, being forced out of racing for six months due to a leg injury had to been driving him crazy.
Needless to say, being back at the racetrack is just what the doctor ordered. Tony already showed us that because he sure looks pretty racy. The reality is Tony is going to be fine here at Daytona. The drivers will tell you that this place is much more mentally demanding that it is physically demanding.
What I think we all should watch closely are the four to five races following Daytona. Places like Bristol and Martinsville will be much more physically demanding. If there is any kind of issue with his leg injury, we’re going to see it rear its head then, more so than here in Daytona.
Trust me, though, if there is anyone in that garage area who can make it work and power through any obstacle just by force of will, pure determination and, yes, a part hard-headedness, well, then, his name is Tony Stewart.