Five months after breaking his leg, Tony Stewart reaffirmed his recovery is ahead of schedule and that he will be racing in next month's Daytona 500.
Stewart made his comments while meeting with reporters Thursday at Daytona International, where preseason testing is taking place through the weekend. He expects to be cleared to return to competition Feb. 14 -- the day before the Sprint Unlimited, a non-points exhibition race featuring a limited field.
The three-time Cup champion broke his right fibula and tibia in a Sprint car accident Aug. 5 at a dirt track in Iowa. Although he will not be 100 percent physically for the Feb. 23 season-opening event, Stewart is confident that he will be fit enough to compete in four weeks time.
"I feel pretty good," Stewart said. "... Even when we get here in February, it's not going to be 100 percent. 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.
"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."
After taking a holiday break from physical therapy, Stewart will resume rehab Friday in Charlotte. The focus during his therapy sessions has been strengthening his feet and legs.
"Luckily this is a smooth racetrack," Stewart said. "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."
Cleared to drive a street car, Stewart sat in a race car three weeks ago when he took part in a seat-fitting. He equated the experience to slipping on an old pair of shoes and said he "felt like a kid."
Continuing to fill Stewart's seat until his return is veteran Mark Martin, who drove the No. 14 car in 12 races last season. Martin along with the rest of the Stewart-Haas Racing contingent including Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick are all taking part in Daytona testing.
Harvick and Busch are in their first season with SHR. Stewart expects his teammates and himself to be in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. As for the fourth member of the organization, the owner-driver is keeping expectations reasonable.
"It's not that we're discounting Danica, but it's still a work in progress; she's still learning," Stewart said. "This year I think will be a big year for her. ... I think all four of us have the potential to do better than all four of us did last year.
"But for sure I feel like we've got three cars that can win races and make the Chase right now."