Although he arrived at the press conference in the Stewart-Haas Racing media centre in Kannopolis, North Carolina in a wheel chair and had to be assisted into his seat before the session could get underway, in almost every other respect Tony Stewart seemed right back to his old self.
"Oddly enough, I actually miss you guys, which tells you that I'm not healthy yet!" he quipped at the start, referring to his sometimes prickly relationship with the media. "No, excited to be back, and the reason we're going to be here until your questions are over is because Mike took my wheelchair, so basically I'm stuck here," he added.
Stewart didn't have any new news to announce, but simply wanted to make himself available to the press to answer some of the backlog of questions that had built up since the winged sprint car accident in Southern Iowa that saw him fracture his leg in two places at the start of August and which will now see him out of action until the start of the 2014 season, with Mark Martin taking over at the wheel of the #14 in the meantime.
"They're looking at the beginning of February, which isn't a bad deal," he said of when his doctor expected him to be able to return to competition. "I guess if you had to have this injury happen, if it would have happened a month later, it would have got us in a really big bind for next year even, so we would have missed not only this year but the beginning of next year, as well."
That means Stewart should be back in action in time for the first race of the 2014 season, the Daytona 500 - although how much he will be fully race fit and whether or not he will be able to significantly participate in the pre-season preparation remains to be seen. But for right now those are questions for the future, and Stewart's priority is simply getting himself fully healed.
"There was a lot of skin damage where the bones, where they got through the skin during the accident," Stewart explained. "They've actually this past Wednesday took out 90 per cent of the stitches that were in the skin. The skin is healing really well.
"No extra surgeries," he confirmed. "We're not out of the woods as far as inspection right now with the skin or the bones, but the time frame that the doctor said is if we can get through the first two months and not have any dramas with infection that the odds of getting it are really, really low. We're halfway there on that, and the skin keeps healing faster than the doctor anticipated, so everything is progressing really well right now.
"He said it should be 100 per cent recovery. He doesn't see any problem in that whatsoever. There was no doubt in his mind when he said it he had a grin on his face and said it'll be 100 per cent. He said when it heals it'll actually be stronger than it was before."
"I do know that when we start therapy he said there's going to be a lot of crying involved, so I'm not looking forward to that," he admitted. "But I am looking forward to being able to get up and walk around like I'm used to doing and getting around like I'm used to. And the biggest thing is I can't wait to get back in a race car. I want to be ready for Daytona.