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LAS VEGAS -- Looking fit and responding to questions with his typical humor,Tony Stewart addressed reporters at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday afternoon, sharing that he still has no timetable on his return to racing but that he is feeling better each day.
Stewart joked that his doctors were not happy that he had traveled across the country from North Carolina to Las Vegas, which is hosting Sunday's Kobalt 400 Sprint CupSeries race. But he promised "we did everything short of bubble-wrap me to get me on the plane" for the ride West. And he conceded, staying inside at his North Carolina home was simply becoming too frustrating and monotonous.
Stewart injured his back in a Jan. 31 all-terrain vehicle accident in Arizona and has had surgery to repair his L1 vertebrae. He said he returns to the doctor on Wednesday for X-rays to determine how the recovery is going. He is hopeful he can soon begin a more rigorous rehab program.
"I landed like a lawn dart and it's hard to make that sound cool," Stewart joked of the injury.
The three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion showed off a pair of the four new, humorous Mobil 1 commercials he recently made and then took questions from the media during a lunch break at the track.
"The hard part is I don't know if being here is actually hurting me or helping me," Stewart said. "The doctors don't want me to be here but at the same time, it's good for me and it's good for our team. I want to be here to support them. … That's a big deal for them to know I'm behind them 100 percent. I want to be at the track. That's always where I want to be.
"I would rather be here and be in pain than be at home, be comfortable and no pain. The pain is worth it to me."
Stewart, whose No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevy will be driven by Brian Vickersthis weekend, reiterated that he was not going to extend his final farewell season even though he is missing the front end of it as he recovers from his injury. He said he was hopeful NASCAR will allow him to remain eligible for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs should he qualify -- much as they allowed reigning Cup champion Kyle Busch last year.
And, he insisted, contrary to rumors, he did not plan on one final "Daytona 500 start" next year as so many have suggested.
"Not even 1 percent considering it," Stewart said of the possibility he would run a "one-off" Cup event next year such as the Great American Race.
"I'm not going to change the plan because I got hurt. These are the cards that were dealt."
He did allow that he was intrigued to do a one-off NASCAR Camping World TruckSeries race here or there -- particularly at Eldora Speedway, a half-mile dirt track Stewart owns in Ohio.
But, he stressed, recovering from this severe injury is about much more than returning to the cockpit of a race car.
"If this doesn't heal right or we do something too soon that messes it up, it could affect me the rest of my life," Stewart said. "We're not rushing. The number one goal is to get it right the first time. We're not going to push the issue, we're going to make sure it's right."
But he reiterated often on Friday, "As soon they tell me I can get back in a car, I'm going wide open."
After the formal press conference Stewart made his way through the garage to see his team. As he walked, other team members, NASCAR officials and fans greeted him with handshakes, smiles, and shouts of encouragement.
"Looking good, Tony."
"Good to see you back, Tony."
And no matter how badly his back may have been hurting then, Stewart was all smiles.

Stewart all smiles, but itching for return to racing | NASCAR.com
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Stewart's Return Uncertain

Tony Stewart isn’t sure when he’ll return to the Sprint Cup Series this season.
On Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he provided the media with an update of his recovery from the back injury he suffered in an ATV accident in late January.
"I wish I knew," he said when asked about a possible return to competition. "I go back to Charlotte for X-rays next Wednesday. That's the first time since the surgery (Feb. 3) that we'll have a progress report. For a month, now, I haven't done anything but chill out. The doctors want me lying in bed and walking. They don't want me sitting and standing.
"I'm breaking the rules. They didn't want me flying out here. They didn't want me in Atlanta. But I can't lay in bed any longer. It's about to kill me. We did everything we could, short of bubble-wrapping me to ride out here on the plane. I was as comfortable as can be."
While he has every intention of getting healthy enough to make a return this year, Stewart has no plans to extend his NASCAR career past this season. When he does return, he has every desire to do so with 100 percent effort.
"These are the cards we were dealt," he said. "It was a weird accident that nobody ever thought would happen. I can't even make up the story about how I got hurt, can't even make it sound cool. I got hurt driving five miles an hour.
"I wish I could say I was jumping a 50-foot gap and running 60 miles an hour when it flipped over, caught on fire and I broke my back. That's not what happened. I went over the lip of a dune, went down 20 or 25 feet and landed like a lawn dart. It broke my back. We'll play the rest of the year out. As soon as they tell me I can (get) back in the car, I'm going to be wide-open, 100%."
Stewart hopes NASCAR will grant him a Chase waiver and allow him to be eligible for the championship when he does return, citing the 11 races Kyle Busch missed last year due to injury.
"Whatever they decide, they decide," Stewart said. "I'd like to think it's going to be similar to what they did last year with Kyle."
While Stewart ruled out any return to Sprint Cup racing next season after his retirement, he continues to indicate that his driving career is far from over. Just don’t look for him in the 2017 Daytona 500.
"Not even 1% considering it," Stewart said. "There are races I want to run. I'm trying to figure out how I could run the Truck Series race at Eldora. It sounds easy to sign up and do it. I've got a lot of responsibilities, but I'd love to run that race.
"I'd like to run some Modified races at Loudon (N.H.) when we're up there. There are one-off races like that, but there are not going to be one-off races in the Cup Series."
For now, all Stewart can do is wait and hope that his body responds to allow him back in a car as soon as possible.
"Once they say we're all right to get in it, we'll get in it," he said. "We're not going to push that issue, not going to try to do something before we're ready."

Tony Stewart's Return Uncertain - NASCAR Sprint Cup News - MRN.com
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Tony Stewart hoping X-rays on fractured vertebra show progress

LAS VEGAS -- Tony Stewart already has defied his doctor's orders, but there is one order he won't ignore: The order that he won't return to racing until the broken bone in his back has healed.
The three-time Sprint Cup champion said Friday he will be ready to race once doctors give him the OK. He just has no clue when that will come. His first X-rays since the Feb. 3 surgery for his fractured L1 vertebra will be Wednesday, and that will let him know his progress and possibly set the schedule for his rehab and potential return.
Stewart also wouldn't rule out making the Chase for the Sprint Cup in his final season, hopeful that NASCAR will award him a waiver to miss races, just like it did with Kyle Busch, while still requiring a win and a top-30 regular-season finish in the standings to make the Chase. Busch missed the first 11 races in 2015, won four races to make the Chase and then won the 2015 championship. The only difference is Busch was injured during a NASCAR event (an Xfinity Series race at Daytona) while Stewart was injured driving a dune buggy in the California dunes.
"I'll do the best I can," Stewart said at Las Vegas Motor Speedway about trying to make the Chase. "That's all I ever do is do the best that I can. Whatever they decide, they decide and I would like to think it's going to be similar to what they did last year with Kyle. The biggest thing I'm worried about is just getting this heal properly."
Stewart wasn't supposed to be at Vegas, but he was able to lay on his back during the plane ride out and will try to limit his sitting time. His doctors either want him walking or on his back. Stewart came to Vegas to fulfill sponsor commitments for Mobil 1 and to hang out with his team. He also attended the Atlanta race last weekend, standing the entire event on the spotter stand.
While he might appear defiant, Stewart stressed he won't rush his return. Doctors not treating Stewart have said it would take two or three months for his bone to heal from the fracture stabilizing surgery. Stewart said he has driven a street car for more than two weeks and it doesn't bother him although he can't do it for a long period of time. A crash could cause Stewart to suffer a more serious fracture and spinal injury or the plates in his back could move and cause damage.
"When they clear me to do it, I can promise you I'll be ready to do it," said Stewart, who missed the final 15 races of the 2013 season because of a broken leg. "We've been through enough pain tolerance with the leg and with this, I don't think it is a big problem. ... [The X-rays] will give a little better idea.
"This is a little different injury than the leg injury was. The leg injury was much more severe an injury itself, but this is a much more sensitive injury. If this doesn't heal right or we do something that messes it up, it could affect me the rest of my life."
Brian Vickers and Ty Dillon have replaced Stewart in the first three races, and Stewart said that will remain the plan throughout his absence. Vickers will drive the Mobil-sponsored races (the majority of the events) while Dillon will drive the Bass Pro Shops car.
Stewart had previously announced plans to retire from Sprint Cup racing (while returning to his roots for select sprint-car races) after this year and has no plans to change his mind. He broke his back Jan. 31 on a drop of 20-25 feet at 5 mph while driving a dune buggy in California.
"These were the cards we were dealt, and it was a weird accident that nobody ever thought would happen," Stewart said. "I can't even make the story of how I got hurt sound cool. ... I wish I could tell you the story I was jumping a 50-foot gap at 60 miles an hour, it flipped over, it caught on fire and I broke my back.
"I went over the lip of a dune and went down 20-25 feet and landed like a lawn dart and broke my back."

Stewart hoping X-rays on vertebra show progress
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Sounds like Smoke, not much of a "doctor's orders" kind of guy, haha.
"Landed like a lawn dart"
That's definitely an interesting way to put it.
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