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Stewart: Passion, desire to compete ‘never wavered’

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Tony Stewart didn’t have any fear of getting back into a racecar following his broken leg in a sprint-car race in early August.

Being out of his car is what bothered him more than anything.

“I’ve had injuries before,” Stewart said in a press release. “I’ve had broken hands and raced dirt cars and stockcars. I’ve had broken bones that weren’t healed 100 percent and still went out and did what we needed to do. This was just a bigger setback. This was one that I didn’t have a choice of being in the car and fighting through it. This was one where the ante was up a little bit.”

Stewart never questioned whether returning to racing was something he could do or wanted to do.

“It was just, when can we do it?” Stewart said. “I just want to be 100 percent, and we’re pushing toward that. The passion and desire I have for the sport, that’s never wavered, and that’s what gets you through some of this stuff.

“People that want to compete, want to compete,” he said. “They fight through injuries, they persevere, they work hard to get back where they want to be, and this is no different. There’s nothing about this process that has taken away my desire to do what I want to do. You don’t live for what could happen; you live for what you can make happen.”

Even though he couldn’t drive while recovering from his injury, Stewart maintained his presence as an owner.

“It’s been different just from the standpoint that in all the other cases, I was just a driver who was trying to heal up from an injury,” Stewart said. “With this injury, I was in a period where my driving was put on hold, but I could still stay active as an owner. It gave me an opportunity to take a different role on a race weekend and be able to do things that I wouldn’t be able to do or see as a driver. It’s given me a perspective that’s a little bit different.

“I think it’s made me a stronger owner because I had to sit in a different role for six months,” he said. “It’s a perspective that I probably needed to see but didn’t have the capability with my role as a driver every weekend. I feel like I’m a little more well‑rounded. It doesn’t mean I’m a great owner yet, but I feel like going to the track last fall where I wasn’t inside a racecar all the time gave me insight that’ll help me down the road.”

This weekend, Stewart is in Bristol, Tenn., for Sunday’s 2 p.m. NASCAR Sprint Cup race. He’ll be making his 30th Sprint Cup start at Bristol, Tenn., where he hasn’t won since 2001.

“It’s a track where we’ve struggled,” Stewart said. “We’ve led a lot of laps there, but we just don’t have the wins to show for it. It’s a track I definitely like. Everybody goes, ‘How can you like it when you’ve not had any success there for a while?’ To me, that’s just motivation. It gives us the ambition to be successful.

“Bristol is one of those places where you’ve got to have everything kind of go your way,” he said. “If you have one hiccup, it’s hard to recover from it. We’ve only won one race there and we’ve kind of been all over the board. It’s been feast or famine for us. It’s like if you have one problem in the first half of the race, it’s hard to recover from it. It makes for a very long day. We’ve had more long days than good days.”

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