Dover: Stewart - GM Friday interview




How is the shoulder?

"It's been better. The big thing is just taking care of the injury and let it heal and go about our business again. It's a typical bone break. It's going to take six to eight weeks to heal. There are little things you can do to help accelerate that. But you've still got to spend your time taking it easy and keeping your arm in the sling and being easy on the muscle and the bones. If we could wish ourselves back healthy, then I'd already be healthy again, but unfortunately it's just one of those bad timing situations where we got one of the toughest tracks on the schedule this weekend. If we get through this weekend without any problems, then for Pocono, we shouldn't have any issues. I think having that extra week to heal up even though it's only two weeks into it, having the treatments that we're taking should help the bone get a little head start healing and hopefully get us ready to get back in the car again."

Have you ever been injured like this before?

"It's just part of racing. I've been racing 27 years. It seems like everything kind of happens in patterns. You'll have a string where you have some bad luck and you'll have strings where you'll have a lot of good luck. In the 27 years that I've been racing, this is one of the more substantial injuries that I've had. If you think about how bad it could be, this really isn't that bad of an injury. Really we've had a pretty good string of good luck with everything. It's not something that's going to take us out of an opportunity to run for the championship, which is great with this format. We've got to do our work this weekend. The hard part is just not knowing when we're going to get that first caution. I hope that happens on lap two and I hope we're not it and I can get out early, but the big thing is just trying to get out of the car early enough to where we're not continuing to aggravate the injury. The longer we can be out of the car, the more opportunity we have to get it in better shape for Pocono next weekend."

How much racing can you do at Dover?

"Probably until the first caution. We've got Ricky Rudd lined up to go out for us. It's a shame because this Powerade car looks awesome. When I saw it at the shop it broke my heart to know that I'm not going to get to run it the whole weekend. But you know Ricky will do a great job in it though. It's a shame because it's a promotion that we were really looking forward to and I was really looking forward to running this Powerade car.

"Dover's such a physical race track. With this kind of injury it's not feasible to make it 400 miles. The best thing to do is get an early caution. The first caution that we can get we'll give Ricky a chance to get inside the car. Once we do that, it's basically in his hands and I'll just stay on top of the pit box and do whatever I can to help out."

So, you've got to take this weekend kind of easy.

"Yeah. It's hard to do, because you want to be in the car the whole time, but I think we've all come up with a plan on what to do this weekend. It's just a matter of getting me out of the car as quickly as possible without aggravating the injury anymore and giving Ricky time to get in and get buckled in safely and hopefully not lose a lap. We'll just do everything we can this weekend to do that smoothly. The good thing about 400 laps at Dover is that if we've got a good enough car, which I think we'll have, it'll give him plenty of time to get back to the front."

With the points right now, how far do you push it? Do you pick a lap where you're going to come out?

"You can't afford to just come in and just pick a number when you want to come out. This is a situation where we don't have that luxury. We have to go until we get that first caution flag. The only time that we can really do that driver change is during a caution where we got enough time to not lose a lap. We still have to be smart and plan the strategy on how fast we're going to be able to get Ricky in the car and just go from there."

How involved were you in the paint scheme of the Powerade car and how do you like it?

"I love the paint scheme. It's a beautiful car. I like black anyway. It's beautiful. It's going to be hard to sit there and watch Ricky drive it. They don't even let me see the paint schemes until it's time to unveil them, because I'm like a little kid. I get so excited. I let the cat out of the bag too early, but if I were going to design it, this is what it would look like. It's a beautiful car."

Realistically, how long are you going to drive on Sunday?

"Probably until the first caution. Hopefully that will be early and hopefully we're not the caution. I think we're going to be in good enough shape by the weekend that if it goes 50 or 60 laps, I don't think we'll have too much trouble doing that. It's definitely going to be uncomfortable."

You think you've already made up your mind that you don't want to run the whole race at Dover?

"I don't think it's a matter of whether I want to or not. I don't think it's going to be feasible to run it. It's such a physical track. With it being concrete, it's a bumpy race track. With the load that you have on that corner of your body, it's just impossible to think. When you're healthy, it's a long 400-mile race, let alone when you're dealing with an injury."

Being as competitive as you are, what will you do once you're out of the car?

"I'll be on top of the pit box watching. You know, everything that Ricky does is still going to earn me points since I start the race. That's the thing about our sport. We all play hurt. We all play sick. We don't call in and get sick days. We all have to at least start the race, so that's the hard part about it. Even though I'm not going to be in the car doesn't mean I'm not going to care about what's going on with that race car. If Ricky's got a question and there's something I can help him answer while we're going on during the race and I can be there to help, then that's what I'm definitely going to do."

How far down the road will it be before you're in the car again full-time?

"I think after Dover, we're probably going to be all right. We run Pocono and then Michigan, and those are two tracks that aren't very physically demanding. The thing with Dover is that it's one of the more physically demanding tracks we go to. Timing-wise, it was just bad timing. But we've got Al Shuford who was the trainer that was with us during Double Duty at Indy (in 2001), so the good thing is that we've already started treatments and started doing ultrasound treatments that help the bone grow faster and heal faster. So, we're already doing everything we can. It's just a matter of not re-injuring it in the next six or eight weeks."

When you came out of the car, it looked like it really hurt. Did it? Does it still?

"Yeah, it still does. It's a bone break. I mean, anytime you break a bone it's sore and it's not going to not be sore in two or three days. This is a six or eight week healing process. But you know, there's all kind of things they can do to numb the pain up, so we can at least drive the car and do what we need to do."

Can you still win the championship even with an injury like this?

"Sure. We're not in the last ten races just yet. You know, those last 10 weeks are what wins you the championship, so as long as we can just stay in the top-10 in points right now, we can definitely win it."

Will you curtail any of your extra-curricular racing, be it in the NASCAR Busch Series at local tracks?

"Injuries are a part of the sport. They can happen anytime you get in the car. I mean, you can wreck on the interstate driving to the track. Everybody can speculate on what is too much or not enough or this and that, but it's just an unfortunate deal."

Ironically, the last time you had an injury was before heading to another difficult track - Bristol (spring 2002). If this was Pocono you'd probably be able to stay in the car longer.

"Yeah. The good thing is that we've got Pocono next week. With the treatment that we started on Tuesday and will continue during the week, through the weekend and all of next week, so by the time we get to Pocono next week, we shouldn't have any problems. The good thing is that Michigan is the next week after that, and that's another track that's very wide and big and smooth and gives you plenty of time to rest. So, I think we're going to be in good shape. It's just the timing of it being around Dover was the bad part."

-gm racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup