Stewart ready for return at Daytona after leg injury

Daytona Beach, FL ( - Tony Stewart is eager to get back in the race car and has no plans for a relief driver this weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

Stewart, a three-time Sprint Cup Series champion, is expected to drive his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in Friday and Saturday's practice sessions, Saturday night's preseason race -- The Sprint Unlimited -- and Sunday's qualifying for the Daytona 500.

It will be Stewart's first time back in a race car since he suffered a broken right leg in an accident during a sprint car race last August in Oskaloosa, Iowa. He missed the final 15 races of the 2013 season.

"I'm excited about it," Stewart said during Thursday's Daytona 500 Media Day at Daytona International Speedway. "It's been a long time since August 5th. Normally, we're talking about the offseason, and it just seems like it flies by. But this has been the slowest offseason that I've ever had. I'm ready to get going again."

Stewart underwent three surgeries to repair his leg, including one where a metal rod was inserted inside his fractured tibia. He's had months of physical therapy.

"All of my therapy has been going really well, especially I would say in the last two weeks," he said. "I feel like we've made really huge gains. I don't know how we could be more prepared, honestly, than where we are right now. In a perfect scenario, everything would be healed 100 percent, and we wouldn't even be talking about it. My bone is about 65 percent healed right now."

Last month, Mark Martin drove Stewart's No. 14 car during preseason testing at Daytona. Martin also substituted for Stewart in the car in 12 of the last 13 races this past season.

Stewart is one of 18 drivers competing in The Sprint Unlimited at Daytona, which is a 75-lap, 187.5-mile race. He has won it three times.

"I feel confident enough that we're not going to have to worry about anything," Stewart said. "We've planned for everything that we think might or could go wrong. And when I say, 'go wrong,' it's not going to be anything that's going to take me out of the race car. It's a matter of trying to make everything absolutely as comfortable as possible."