Stewart on track for return in February at Daytona

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Updated: 1/09 4:48 pm

Daytona Beach, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Tony Stewart said he's ready to resume his driving duties next month at Daytona International Speedway after a leg injury sidelined him for the final 15 Sprint Cup Series races of the 2013 season.

Stewart, a three-time Cup champion, suffered a broken right leg in an accident during a sprint car race last August in Oskaloosa, Iowa. He underwent three surgeries, with his most recent one on Oct. 7.

During a press conference on Thursday, Stewart said he expects to be cleared to drive on Feb. 14, the day before the Sprint Unlimited pre-season race at Daytona. The season-opening Daytona 500 is scheduled for Feb. 23.

Stewart also noted that his physical therapist has told him that he's ahead of schedule in his recovery.

"I feel pretty good," Stewart said. "I still have a little ways to go, but we've got four weeks to get ready the rest of the way. Even when we get here in February, it's not going to be 100 percent. Physically, I'm not going to feel 100 percent, but I'll be able to do my job 100 percent, so that's the main thing. I don't mind it taking a little longer for the physical side to heal, as long as I can drive a race car when I need to when I get back."

Sprint Cup teams are testing at Daytona this week. The first day of on-track activity here on Thursday was canceled due to rain. Long-time veteran Mark Martin is driving Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet. Martin substituted for Stewart in the No. 14 in 12 of the last 13 races this past season.

Stewart resumed his physical therapy in North Carolina earlier this week after spending nearly three weeks at his home in Indiana. Prior to taking a break for the Holidays, Stewart had a seat fit at his Stewart-Haas Racing shop. His first time in a race car since his accident rejuvenated him.

"It felt like an old pair of shoes," he said. "The hard part was they kept telling me I had to get out of it. I wanted to sit in it. I felt like a kid. I wanted to keep moving the steering wheel and everything else. That was kind of fun to get back in there. It kind of felt like the first time I got in one. It was that kind of excitement."

Stewart is expected to compete in sprint car races this year, but when he returns has yet to be determined.

"We haven't even worked on a schedule for my sprint car," he said. "I'm going to run races. We've got a sponsor for it. We're going to go ahead and run, but we just are kind of playing it by ear right now. They're getting stuff ready. The Cup car is the priority right now and making sure that we're comfortable there.

"Like I say, I'm not going to feel 100 percent physically, but I'm going to feel 100 percent enough to drive a Cup car. Bouncing around in a sprint car is a little different deal. We'll take a little more time. There's not a sense of urgency."

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