Three weeks after suffering a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra in his back, Tony Stewart is plotting his return to the racetrack — even if he doesn’t know when he’ll actually drive a car again.
The three-time Sprint Cup champion phoned in to FOX Sports’ live broadcast of Sunday’s Daytona 500, giving on-air announcers Mike Joy, Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Gordon an update on his condition since injuring his back on Jan. 31 in an off-track incident near the California-Arizona border.
There is still no timetable for Stewart’s return to the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet that was driven throughout Speedweeks by Brian Vickers.
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"I’m thinking that I’m actually going to come visit in the next couple weeks back to a Cup race," Stewart told the FOX on-air team. "We don’t even get X-rayed again until March 9 so we’re really not going to know what the progress of the bone is, but as far as myself personally, I’ve been up and getting around and moving around a lot. Each day I can tell a noticeable difference from the previous day. So I’m feeling a lot better and, man, I’m itching to get back to the racetrack.
"That’s probably been the hardest part of the last 10 days is just not being at the track, not seeing the officials, your crew guys, guys from other teams. That’s what I’ve missed so far."
Stewart indicated that he was in touch with both Vickers and first-year crew chief Mike Bugarewicz at various times throughout Speedweeks.
Vickers finished 26th in the Daytona 500 after spinning on Lap 56 of 200.
"I’ve talked to Brian a lot and I’ve also talked to Mike, the crew chief," Stewart said. "This was his first race as a crew chief. Sunday morning I called and talked to them and just made sure they both were calm and relaxed. …
"I’m like the guy you call for technical support. You’re on the other line and I’m not really calling the shots. I’m just here to kind of walk them through if they have any questions, and give input where I can."