Tony Stewart is 20 pounds lighter and has a titanium rod in his surgically repaired right leg.

As far as he's concerned, those are the only major changes since he broke two bones in his leg in an August sprint-car crash. So when the green flag drops Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway for his first race since the accident, Stewart believes it will be the same old "Smoke" behind the wheel.

He says, "we're not going to need a backup driver. I feel good enough that I'm confident we're not going to have to worry about anything."

Stewart has not raced in more than six months. He's scheduled to return for the first time Friday for 105 minutes of practice for the exhibition Sprint Unlimited.