AVONDALE, Ariz. — Tony Stewart came back from a broken right leg at the Daytona 500 still not healed, yet able to race.
By the time he arrived at Phoenix International Raceway, he also was annoyed — at all the questions about his health.
"I'll be honest, I'll be more happy when everybody quits asking me how I feel," Stewart said. "I'm not 100 percent. I'm not going to be 100 percent for a while."
The same could be said of his team after a disappointing start to the season last week at Daytona.
Stewart, the co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, crashed out of the exhibition Sprint Unlimited and struggled with engine issues in Sunday's Daytona 500, finishing 35th.
Teammate Danica Patrick was strong early, leading laps for the second straight year, but got tangled in a late-race crash and finished 40th.
Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick, the two newest members of Stewart-Haas Racing, were in position for good finishes, but had troubles at the end. Busch finished 21st and Harvick hit the pit-road wall head-on in the final crash of the race to finish 13th.
Stewart and the rest of his team hope to bounce back quickly today at Phoenix, particularly with a new Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship format that makes it important to finish races.
Busch will have the best starting position for SHR in 10th and Harvick is two rows back at 13th. Stewart will start 20th and Patrick will go off 33rd.
"Not that you're not going to be aggressive, but you have to keep the mind-set right now that you still have to finish the races," said Harvick, the all-time leader in victories at PIR with nine, including four in Sprint Cup.
"But as you get in that position (to win), you can start being a lot more aggressive with really anything. All you're after at that point is winning races to try to gain more bonus point to protect yourself in the first round of the Chase to get the cushion."