Tony Stewart details what happened during dune-buggy accident

Tony Stewart said his dune buggy “face-planted” after it plunged over a 20-25 foot dip in sand dunes in southern California.
Tony Stewart said his dune buggy “face-planted” after it plunged over a 20-25 foot dip in sand dunes in southern California. AP

Injured NASCAR driver Tony Stewart used the Periscope app Friday morning to talk with fans while he walked on a treadmill in his home in the Charlotte area.

Stewart will miss the season-opening Daytona 500 after breaking his back in a dune buggy accident Jan. 31 in southern California. On Friday, Stewart-Haas Racing announced that Brian Vickers will fill in for Stewart at Daytona.

Stewart said his dune buggy was going only 5 mph when it plunged over a steep, 20-25 foot dip in a dune and “face planted.”

“It’s pretty hard to make a story about breaking your back sound cool when you were only going 5 mph,” Stewart said on Periscope. “I’ve never been hurt so bad only going 5 mph in my life.”

Stewart, who had become separated from the group he was driving with, said he lay in the sand for two hours before help came. He had no radio and there was no cell phone service for him to call for aid.

The members of his dune buggy group – which included current and former drivers Jeff Gordon, Ray Evernham, Rusty Wallace, Don Prudhomme and Greg Biffle – found him and transported him to safety.

“They were rock stars getting me out,” Stewart said.

Stewart, who answered fans’ questions and comments while he was on Periscope, showed off six small incisions on his lower back where two small rods and six screws were inserted during an operation. He said he expects the rods and screws will be removed sometime this year.

Stewart said he uses the treadmill two or three times a day and that he has lost 22 pounds since Dec. 1 (10 of them since the accident).

“We’ve been through a lot worse than this,” he said. “This is just another bump in the road.”

It’s the third time in recent years that Stewart has been hurt. He broke his leg in 2013 during a sprint car race and missed 15 Cup races. He missed three races in 2014 after he was involved in a sprint car accident that claimed the life of another driver on a dirt track in upstate New York.

“I was joking with someone that we need an exorcism,” said Stewart, “to get rid of these demons that keep getting me hurt.”

Vickers, Stewart’s replacement at Daytona, has three Cup victories, including a triumph at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in 2006. He won the 2003 Busch series, which is now the Xfinity series.

No decision has been made by SHR on who will drive Stewart’s car after Daytona. Stewart had already announced that he will retire as a Cup driver after this season and said that decision hasn’t changed since the accident. Vickers has been in and out of racing since 2010, when he developed blood clots. In 2015, Vickers developed blood clots again and was taking blood thinners.

“For me, this is huge,” Vickers told reporters Friday at Daytona. “I wasn’t sure I would ever race again. The last five or six years of my life have been a roller coaster, to say the least. I’ve learned so many times that you can only plan so far ahead. You just live life to the fullest. You enjoy it. You make reasonable decisions.

“I love what I do and I love what’s next – whatever that may be.”