Tony Stewart began a very long rehab assignment this week.
The 42-year-old three-time Sprint Cup champion, who broke his tibia and fibula Aug. 5 in a sprint car race at Iowa, had surgery following the wreck and a second surgery Aug. 8 to insert a metal rod into his tibia.
“I think it’s going good so far,” Stewart said Saturday at Dover International Speedway. “The therapist thinks we’re ahead of schedule, so that’s an encouraging sign. He’s surprised by some of the stuff that we’re already able to do. So I take that as it’s going really well.”
Stewart will work with a therapist “three times a week — Monday, Wednesday and Thursday — until he says I’m done.” He said he won’t push things too fast, thus jeopardizing the task at hand: a full recovery at the end of an expected four months of rehab.
“It’s going to take a while,” Stewart said. “I’m doing what they tell me to do at the time and not asking too many questions. I want to make sure I do everything right.”
Stewart’s accident interrupted a streak of 521 consecutive Sprint Cup starts. He was 11th in points at the time. Though Stewart says he feels better, he still has both good and bad days.
“There are days you can’t sleep because you just can’t get comfortable,” Stewart said.
“Then there are days when you feel like it’s a hall of fame day all of a sudden. It’s just weird because you can’t predict when those days are going to happen.”
Though there had been speculation Stewart could be back in a race car for testing in December, that’s out of the question for now.
“No,” Stewart said emphatically. “Not until probably the end of January to get back in a race car — maybe February, for sure.”
The last two weeks at New Hampshire and Dover, each one-mile tracks, Stewart scrapped his power scooter in favor of crutches in order to make getting around a little easier.
“Last week, we were able to go fairly close to where we needed to be, and this week it’s not a long walk to be able to go where we need to go,” said Stewart, whose last win was June 2 at Dover. “It’s harder to do it on the crutches, but we’re able to put the effort into using the crutches now.
“Talladega, or a track like that (2.66 miles), we might have to use a scooter for that weekend. For places like here and where we were last week, I can get around on crutches. I’m tired when I’m done, but I would rather use the crutches at this point.”
Stewart, who has won 48 Cup races, the 1997 IndyCar title and the 1995 USAC Triple Crown, said he’s been able to regain some upper-body strength as well.
“When you’re not allowed to get out of bed for two weeks, everything is going to go down strength-wise,” he said. “It’s like I keep trying to tell people it’s just a lot more than a couple of broken bones. It’s affected my whole body.”