Tony Stewart says that barring any setbacks, he plans to be back in a car at the beginning of February for Speedweeks before the 2014 Daytona 500.
So yes, that means had his August sprint car accident in Iowa happened later in the year, a full 2014 Sprint Cup Series schedule would have been in jeopardy.
"(Doctors) are looking at the beginning of February, which isn't a bad deal," Stewart said. "It's really, I guess if you had to have this injury happen, if it had happened a month later it would have gotten us in a really big bind for next year even."
Stewart spoke for the first time since his sprint car accident in August and was rolled to the press conference table Tuesday in a wheelchair with a walking boot on his right leg. He said right now a priority in his recovery and rehab -- a rehab plan that he says he's been told involves a lot of crying -- is to not go after things too quickly in fear of being overaggressive and extending the recovery timeline.
"February is what they're looking at. It's something that as part of this process, I've really been vague with the doctors about what's going on and what's going to happen a month down the road or three months down the road. And the reason for that is I've tried to a certain degree to protect myself from myself by not getting too far ahead and try to do something too early that I'm not supposed to do. I'm really trying to guard against setbacks right now."
In that crash, Stewart suffered a grade 2 fracture of his right fibula and tibia. If you thought that a guy who has three Cup titles and races cars for a living wasn't sensitive to gruesome injuries, think again. Stewart can't help looking at his injury, but always regrets it.
"The first phase of this healing process has been which I'll admit, I've been about as squeamish as anybody you've ever seen," Stewart said. "I've literally damn near passed out at every doctor visit I've been to so far with the surgeon."
He continued: "And I go into it with the attitude that I'm not going to look at my leg and then as soon as they get the wrapping off it I'm like 'I gotta look.' It's like yelling at a dog and a squirrel. I can't not look. And then I spend the rest of the time with a wet washcloth on my forehead trying to regain consciousness."
Stewart also talked about his team's decision to add Kurt Busch in a fourth car for 2014. Previously, the team had said that a fourth car wasn't in the offing for next season, but once that Busch talked with Gene Haas at Indianapolis. He also said that the discussion with Haas about adding Kurt Busch to the team wasn't nearly as dramatic as it sounded.
"There was nothing in my mind when he said that that discouraged me because I knew in my mind from day one that Gene wanted this to be a four-car team eventually," Stewart said. "I had no dream that he had it in mind for 2014 until three Mondays ago. But as far as how it was going to look, especially to Ryan (Newman), I think Gene addressed it last week, this was something that he came up with and it happened all at once."
"Gene made the decision that he wanted to make a change and we're partners in this and Gene wanted to make a change and I gotta go with him. And with his choice to add Kurt to the organization, I was really and truly 100 percent behind it. I was just concerned about the time frame."
Stewart says he plans to be at Richmond Friday and Saturday and while he had the wheelchair on Tuesday and received crutches last week, that he's already figured out his mode of track transportation. A sponsor-stickered scooter, perhaps?