'The Smoke' will rise again
A huge topic referenced his SHR partner, Gene Haas, and his hiring of driver Kurt Busch for a fourth start up team as well as his plans regarding future sprint car racing
With a big smile on his face, Stewart began the Q & A session by telling the members of the media "oddly enough, I actually miss you guys, which tells you that I'm not healthy yet and the reason we're going to be here until your questions are over is Mike took my wheelchair so basically I'm stuck here."
Here's some of the major bullet points from the press conference:
THE HEALTH AND RECOVERY PROCESS.
Stewart called the sprint car accident the worst he's ever endured in 35 years of racing and also called it the worst injury he's ever had in his life
A titanium rod has been surgically placed in his leg and will remain there permanently90% of the stitches placed in his right leg have now been removed by doctors
An extremely intense physical therapy program will begin around the end of September Stewart admitted that he wasn't looking forward to it because his doctors said "there's going to be a lot of crying involved."
Stewart said he's made huge gains in the recovery process over the last month.
Doctors are confident that Stewart will achieve 100% recovery by February which will clear him to return to the driver's seat in time for the season opener at Daytona
No longer confined to bed, Stewart has been at the SHR offices taking care of business with plans to continue some personal appearance commitments.
Stewart also pointed out that the best medicine so far has been the massive amount of well wishes from the fans and his racing colleagues representing every form of motorsports you can name.
SHR's FOURTH TEAM AND THE HIRING OF KURT BUSCH
The media at this press conference was literally chomping at the bit to hear Stewart's thoughts on his partner, Gene Haas, creating a fourth, start up, team for driver Kurt Busch on his own without talking to him about it first
First off, Stewart pointed out that this sequence of events was no where near as dramatic as many perceived it to be. He also pointed out that at no time were there any arguments between him and his partner regarding this matter
Stewart admitted that he was somewhat caught off guard by how fast Haas was able to put this deal together and said: "when Gene came to me about the fourth team he told me on a Monday, and then on Thursday I was told they had a contract ready."
Stewart also made it clear that he was not against the concept of SHR expanding to four teams nor did he have a problem with someone on the caliber of Busch joining the organization's roster of drivers
Stewart said his concern was the timing.
It was Greg Zipadelli, SHR Director of Competition, who swayed Stewart's thinking on this matter, Stewart said: "Greg told me we can do this and we can get this done in the time frame. It may not be fun, and it may not be easy, but we can do it" adding "that's what made me finally give my 100% blessing on it."
Calling him a very smart man who single handed created a very successful business, Stewart said he was very proud of Gene Haas for being so active in this process and again stated that there were no serious arguments between the two of them
During the mid July NASCAR weekend at Loudon-New Hampshire, SHR held a press conference and announced that Ryan Newman, the driver of their #39 team, would not be returning next season.
However, it was the end of August when SHR announced the addition of Kurt Busch to their brand new, fourth, team. That created a fire storm of reports that indicated that maybe the previous announcement regarding Newman's status with the team was misleading
At his press conference Stewart addressed that issue and pointed out that, at the time of the Newman announcement, there were absolutely no plans to expand to four teams.
Stewart also made it clear that he was very upset with Fox Sports 1's racing analyst Kyle Petty who said that he felt Newman was deceived by SHR.
Regarding his relationship with Newman, Stewart said he planned to have a "heart to heart talk" with him regarding any possible issues.
SPRINT CAR RACING
Despite his injury, Stewart said he does indeed plan to return to the world of sprint car racing next season although he has yet to establish a time line for it.
Stewart acknowledged that it has been a terrible summer for the sprint car racing community but did not directly reference the tragic death of former NASCAR driver Jason Leffler. He noted that sprint car manufacturers and safety engineers have already started the process of finding ways to enhance the safety areas of these cars and said: "it would be something positive out of the negative from getting hurt."
Despite the severity of his sprint car crash and his injury, it was clearly evident that Stewart has not lost his sense of sarcasm that frequently made fans laugh out loud and, on occasion, has even intimidated a few members of the media
Commenting on the time he had to spend confined to bed, he said: "I've got to watch Oprah the last four weeks now and I'm very tired of watching TV.
When asked by a reporter if there was one thing he particularly missed about not being at the race track, Stewart quickly replied "hot girls" and added he was hoping to get at least one hot looking nurse to take care of him
Regarding SHR's upcoming transition to becoming a four car team Stewart said: "my role in all of this, as well as healing, is to be cheerleader and keep Zippy, (Greg Zipadelli), pumped up. Like I said, he can't wait for me to get all healed up because he wants to beat the crap out of me getting him in this position."
Stewart also announced that, during his visit to the NASCAR weekend at Richmond, he will be ditching the wheel chair for an alternative mode of transportation. He wouldn't comment on what the new ride is but did say "I'll surprise you with it on Friday, but when you see it you'll realize that I had a lot of time on my hands." When asked if he engineered it, he said: "I don't engineer anything, I'm just the guy who comes up with the really stupid ideas."
Stewart revealed that, during his tenure of being laid up, he learned how to use the Internet as well as how to shop on the Internet which has made him very, very dangerous to the SHR accounting department" I should be done with my Christmas shopping in about a week," he said
Believe it or not, 21 days after his accident Stewart returned to racing and to victory lane.
Make no mistake about it, the "Smoke" will rise again.
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