By Jenna Fryer
The Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tony Stewart does not consider the Daytona 500 a disaster, despite the engine problems that spoiled his return to racing from a broken right leg.
The three-time NASCAR champion wound up 35th in the season-opening race, but he logged enough laps during Speedweeks that he feels good going into the upcoming stretch of seven consecutive races. Stewart missed the final 15 races last year after breaking his leg in two places during a sprint car crash in Iowa.
His first time back in a race car was Feb. 14, the day before he competed — and was crashed out of — the exhibition Sprint Unlimited.
Stewart goes to Sunday’s race at Phoenix International Raceway “a lot more confident than I was before we got to Daytona.”
“I think having all the races that we ran, and actually getting in a crash, while not a great thing, allowed me to sort of test my leg and it felt good,” Stewart said in a Stewart-Haas Racing team release. “There have been some little things that have felt a little different, but for the most part, it’s felt like an old pair of tennis shoes that you’re just comfortable with. I think the whole time in Daytona exceeded my expectations of what I hoped it would be like.”
But the 500 itself was a letdown for SHR.
Stewart had the engine issue and Danica Patrick was involved in a crash and finished 40th. It left only Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, the two newcomers to the organization, in contention for a solid finish and both had difficulties at the end.
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