Tony Stewart is confident that he will be ready in time to compete in the first race of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

Stewart has been sidelined from competition ever since a mid-week regional racing accident in August saw him suffer a multiple fracture to his right leg, with a further operation in October meaning a race against time for him to be ready for the first race of the 2014 at Daytona International Speedway on February 23.

"I feel pretty good," he told reporters on Thursday. "I still have a little ways to go, but we've got four weeks to get ready the rest of the way ... Luckily this is a smooth racetrack. It's not rough and bumpy. If it were Dover, I would be a lot more concerned.

"But the hard part with here is you're just with your throttle, with your right leg, you're on the gas so long. That's the only thing we're worried about right now just because we just don't know until we get in a car and actually run, and we're not going to know that until the day before. We'll get a little bit of time in there, but we'll know a little better after practice is over.

"Physically I'm not going to feel 100 percent, but I'll be able to do my job 100 percent, so that's the main thing," he added. "I don't mind it taking a little longer for the physical side to heal, as long as I can drive a race car when I need to when I get back."

"I guess the hardest part is just not knowing where I'm supposed to be," he admitted. "I mean, I've never had an injury like this so I don't have anything to compare it to. I kind of base everything on a weektoweek deal, and on Sunday I kind of evaluate where I was the Sunday before and go from there.

"It's been kind of a challenge, I guess, from that standpoint," Stewart continued. "The physical side of it is an obvious deal. It's getting everything healed back up and going through rehab and doing everything we're supposed to do. But just not knowing exactly what I'm supposed to feel like, if something hurts why is it hurting - I've not had those experiences before.

"The therapist gets his phone I think he sets it on his nightstand at night because I call him at night and ask him a lot of questions. But having those guys around, it kind of takes the psychological side and kind of puts a lot of that at ease."

Stewart was speaking with the media as NASCAR teams and drivers gathered in Daytona for the first pre-season test of 2014. While he continues with his recuperation, Stewart's place in the #14 will continue to be taken for test and development work by veteran star Mark Martin - although Thursday's first test session was completely washed out by persistent rain.

In other news:

Dale Earnhardt Jr's crew chief Steve Letarte is to exit his role at the end of 2014 to take up a media position with NBC. Letarte has headed the #88 Hendrick Motorsport team for the last three seasons and emphasised that he was focused on finishing on a high in his final campaign with the squad. The team has not announced who is in line to take up the role once Letarte leaves.

Richard Buck has been appointed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series managing director for 2014, replacing 12-year veteran John Darby who will take up a new role at NASCAR as managing director of competition. Buck has been working as vice president of racing operations for the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), a role he will maintain through to the conclusion of this month's 2014 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Like his counterparts Wayne Auton and Chad Little in the Nationwide and Truck Series, Buck will report to NASCAR's vice president of competition and racing development Robin Pemberton.

Ganassi and Penske have tweaked their team names for 2014. Ganassi are to drop the 'Earnhardt' name and return to the 'Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates' name it used up until 2008, while Penske have opted to change from 'Penske Racing' to 'Team Penske' which is the brand they have been using in the Indyar Series.

Toyota Racing Development has confirmed that David Wilson has been appointed president and general manager. Wilson was given the post on an acting basis in June 2013 following the departure of Lee White who cited family health care concerns for his abrupt exit.

The Sprint Unlimited Format will be selected by fans for the second year in a row. Voting via NASCAR's website or mobile app will enable fans to set the overall format and determine key racing elements such as the number of laps in each of the three segments, how drivers will line up at the start of the race and how they will line up for the restart of the final segment.

NASCAR is to change its manufacturer points system for Cup, Nationwide and Truck competition to being it into line with the owner championship. Points will be awarded to the single highest finisher for each car manufacturer in each championship event according to the finishing position awarded for each race; three additional bonus points will be awarded to the manufacturer that wins the race. The single highest finisher for each manufacturer will receive one additional bonus point for leading a lap, and one further bonus point for leading the most laps.

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