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Stewart on target for Daytona return

Tony Stewart has said that he is on course to return to NASCAR competition in time for the first race of the 2014 season, the Daytona 500 on February 23.
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 week‑to‑week 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.

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