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Tony Stewart surprised by pain-free return to NASCAR Sprint Cup

Tony Stewart said he was surprised to be able to make a pain-free return to the cockpit in NASCAR Sprint Cup practice on Friday after a six-month injury layoff.

The three-time Cup champion's 2013 season was halted when he sustained a badly broken right leg in a sprint car crash last August.

He was not ready to take part in the official pre-season test in January, but returned to the track on Friday evening for the two practice sessions for Saturday's Sprint Unlimited non-championship race.

Stewart completed 50 laps across the two sessions and was in the top 10 in both.

"That's better than I was hoping for, honestly," he said.

"I thought I would have had some kind of ache or pain that would bother me, but it was like putting on an old pair of shoes again.

"Once I got the relief of knowing I wasn't hurting anywhere, then it was just joy of being back out there again.

"It didn't feel like I had been gone [nearly] seven months."

Stewart's Stewart-Haas team has expanded to four Chevrolets for 2014, with Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch joining the co-owner/driver and existing team-mate Danica Patrick, and Ryan Newman dropped and heading to Harvick's former team Richard Childress Racing.

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