Stewart feels ‘zero percentage of pain’ during Daytona practice
High-profile NASCAR driver Tony Stewart is 20 pounds lighter and has a titanium rod in his surgically repaired right leg.
As far as he is concerned, those are the only major changes since an August sprint-car crash left him with two broken bones in his leg. So when the green flag drops Saturday at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., for his first race since the accident, Stewart believes it will be the same old “Smoke” behind the wheel.
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If he had any doubts — and he has insisted he doesn’t — they were alleviated by 24 smooth laps in the first of two Friday practice sessions for Saturday’s exhibition Sprint Unlimited.
“Today in the big picture was just another practice day, but obviously it was a little bigger than normal,” he said.
By the end of the day, Stewart drove a total of 50 laps — 125 miles — around Daytona.
“There’s zero percentage of pain in the car. That was nice,” said Stewart, 42. “I thought we would have some kind of ache or pain, but it was like putting on an old pair of shoes again.”
Stewart, who does not have a backup driver at Daytona, has not raced in more than six months. It is an unheard-of amount of time off for a man who makes his money racing in NASCAR yet routinely crisscrossed the country cramming 50 or more weeknight events into his year-round schedule.
Stewart’s layoff was difficult, enhanced by the pain from his broken leg. He had two surgeries for the breaks and a third to treat an infection. He was flat on his back, confined to the first-floor bedroom of his longtime business manager’s house, where he was forced to lay with his leg elevated above his heart. When there was Stewart-Haas Racing business to address, team personnel did it at his bedside.
Stewart required an ambulance to get to doctor appointments, and when he finally was able to get out of bed, he needed a wheelchair to get around.
Hamlin turns fastest practice lap
Denny Hamlin posted the fastest lap in practice for the Sprint Unlimited, going 199.867 mph at the second session.
Ex-Husky Ducre has big night
Gregory Ducre, a senior defensive back for the Washington Huskies last season, had a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter and Furman’s Ray Early made two field goals to lead the National team to a 12-6 victory over the American squad in the College All Star Bowl in Greenville, S.C.
Ducre was voted most valuable player.
The game, played at Furman, gives college seniors another chance to make an impression on pro scouts.
Rice coach Bailiff gets new deal
Rice coach David Bailiff, 55, has a new five-year contract after his second 10-victory season since joining the Owls.
Mosqueda-Lewis has mono
All-America forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is expected to miss from three to six weeks for the top-ranked Connecticut women’s team because of mononucleosis.
The 25-0 Huskies have eight healthy players.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Mosqueda-Lewis began noticing something was wrong about a week ago.
Auriemma said the team’s depth has become a major concern in running practice, and he worries foul trouble might become an issue in some games.
“But in terms of our ability to win games, that hasn’t changed,” he said. “There’s not anybody on our staff and there’s nobody on our team that feels this is going to have any effect on our ability to win games.”
Del Potro, Murray are ousted
Top-seeded Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina and second-seeded Andy Murray of Britain both crashed out at the ABN Amro, leaving No. 3 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic as the only seeded player to reach the semifinals of the indoor tournament in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Ernests Gulbis of Latvia beat defending champion del Potro 6-3, 6-4.
Marin Cilic of Croatia defeated Murray 6-3, 6-4.
Fulham fires Meulensteen
Last-place Fulham fired manager Rene Meulensteen and hired Felix Magath in its bid to avoid relegation from the English Premier League.
Fulham, which has American Clint Dempsey of Sounders FC on its roster, has 20 points from 26 matches.
Magath, a 60-year-old German who has won three Bundesliga titles as a manager, signed an 18-month contract with Fulham. He has a reputation for brutal training and fitness methods; his nicknames include “Torturer” and “Saddam.”
FC Dallas acquires Escobar
FC Dallas of Major League Soccer has acquired Colombian forward Andres Ramiro Escobar, 22, on loan from powerhouse Dynamo Kiev of Ukraine. Escobar spent part of last year on loan with the French team Evian.
• Nevada boxing regulators say welterweights Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley will be subject to stepped-up drug and hormone testing before their April 12 rematch in Las Vegas. Bradley won a controversial split decision over Pacquiao in June 2012 .
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