By admin | September 3, 2013
By Richard Allen
On Tuesday, Tony Stewart made his first appearance in front of the media since his sprint car crash in Iowa on August 5th that resulted in a broken leg. Based on the stories to come out of the event, the three-time Sprint Cup champion seemed to be in good spirits considering that he has been forced to miss essentially a third of the season due to the injury.
But will his spirits, and his health, be good enough to have him at full strength during the 2014 season?
“It just seems like a small bump in the road,” Stewart told the assembled media. “I’m one of those believers that everything happens for a reason, and I feel lucky that if it’s going to happen, the timing of it happened where I’m not going to miss next year.
“It could have been a lot worse. It’s not that bad.”
According to the driver known as ‘Smoke’, doctors have told him that he should be ready to get back into a Sprint Cup car by early February of next year. Even though the Daytona 500 has been moved back by one week from its traditional date, that’s still cutting it pretty close in terms of being ready to race at full speed for the beginning of a grueling 36-race schedule.
“The leg should have 100% recovery,” Stewart explained. “Everything is going according to schedule and may actually be a little ahead of schedule. But if we get done early, we don’t have anything to gain by it. If we have a setback, we have a lot to lose by it.”
Stewart had two separate surgeries to repair the damage done to his leg in the dirt racing crash.
On a Knoxville area sports talk program, ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch said that his medical experience has shown that an injury such as Stewart’s often requires four to six months of recovery time, which would seem to confirm what Stewart’s doctors have told him. But more than simply being able to get back into a car, the question is whether or not he will have the comfort level and the conditioning to race.
Having never suffered a broken leg myself, I cannot speak to the discomfort brought on by such an injury. However, I can imagine that such would cause pain and irritation for some time to come. That would seem particularly true of someone just recently recovered from the injury who would then be strapped into a tight racing seat for up to three hours at a time.
Further, Stewart has never been a driver known for his workout routines. But as much as he races, he stays in ‘racing shape’ throughout the season. When he climbs back into his #14 Chevrolet in February, it will be the first time he has been in a race car since August. Not only will he not be in workout shape, but he won’t be in racing shape either. And the NASCAR season is one that calls for its participants to be in one or the other of those conditions.
This season has provided an example of a driver recovering from injury and not racing at his best. Denny Hamlin suffered a serious back injury during the early season race in Fontana, Calif. He came back hurriedly in the hopes of earning a wildcard berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Instead of making the Chase, Hamlin has languished through his worst season at the Sprint Cup level. Although he has not admitted that his back has been part of the problem, he has complained multiple times over his team radio during races of being in pain. When it’s considered that Hamlin is younger and in better shape than Stewart, it would seem logical to assume that Stewart will suffer through a difficult season health wise.
I have no doubt that Tony Stewart will be back behind the wheel in time for the Daytona 500 in February of 2014. But I do have doubts as to whether he will be at full strength for the entirety of the long season.
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