Healthy, happy Tony Stewart ready for 2015 season

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 12:  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart speaks to the media during the 2015 NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 12, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 12: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart speaks to the media during the 2015 NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway on February 12, 2015 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Tony Stewart didn’t want to talk about the state of his health, but Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick was glad to oblige.

Nor was Stewart willing to use the severe fracture of the right leg he suffered in a sprint car accident in August 2013 as an excuse for a lackluster performance behind the wheel last year.

“Honestly I feel like we’re wasting our time talking about how I feel, because I didn’t feel bad last year,” Stewart told reporters during NASCAR Media Day on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway heading into Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited (8 p.m. ET on FOX).

“I did outside the car, but inside the car I felt good all year. Physically driving the car, it’s not an issue at all. It’s not one one-hundredth of a percent.”

Harvick, however, has noticed a substantive improvement in Stewart’s physical condition and in his demeanor.

“To see his progress over the winter is, for me, the most exciting part as a person, because Tony is first my friend, he’s second my owner and third, he’s —- I never really see him as the owner, I see him as my teammate,” Harvick said.

“But I’m just happy that he’s happy. You can visibly see it. I don’t have to explain it to you guys — you’ve already seen him.”

Despite missing three races in the aftermath of the fatal sprint car accident at Canandaigua Speedway, Stewart finished 25th in the final standings. As the 2015 season approaches, Harvick is thrilled to see his friend invigorated and eager to race.

“He’s got that spring in his step, and the most exciting part for me about Tony is when he walks,” Harvick said. “He doesn’t limp. He’s walking around. He can stand on his feet for hours upon hours. He’s smiling and joking and doing all the things that you would expect out of Tony.

“So that, for me… when I walked into media day and saw him walking up and down the steps and all over the place and not having to sit in a chair and worry about his leg. I mean, he’s running across the shop — no more scooters, no more limping and walking.

“So I think, as you look at all that, he’s gotten a lot of things with his leg straight. He’s gotten all his other situations situated, and I think that, hopefully, he gets back on track because he’s happy and content with where he’s at in life, it seems, from what I see from the outside looking in.”

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