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Three days after surgery, crew chief back to work

Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 - Practice

AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 07: Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, talks to his crew chief, Tony Gibson (L), in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 7, 2014 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

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LOUDON, N.H. - The doctor wouldn’t release Tony Gibson to work until next Tuesday. Gibson’s wife got that amended to Saturday. Gibson convinced her to let him return to work as Kurt Busch’s crew chief Friday.

So, three days after emergency appendectomy surgery, Gibson was at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“I got the hall pass to be here, so I’m going to use it,’’ joked Gibson, who’ll see a doctor next on Thursday.

Still, why didn’t Gibson remain at home Friday and rest before coming to the track Saturday?

“I ain’t built that way,’’ said the 50-year-old, who was the car chief for 1992 series champion Alan Kulwicki’s team. “I love this sport. That’s why it’s going to be so hard for me to stay home when I do decide to do that. It’s going to be tough. It would have been worse for me to sit at home and watch it.

“The guys are more than capable of doing it without me, that’s for sure. They were texting me every day. I just feel that I’ve got to be here and support them and pull my weight.’’

Gibson admits he is “extremely” sore where the incisions were made and that his energy level is down. He understands how lucky he is.

“I feel better each day,’’ he said. “The only thing that would have kept me out was if it had ruptured, then I would have had no choice. If I wouldn’t have felt like I could come and be effective, I wouldn’t have come.’’

Gibson, who has had ulcers most of his life, said his stomach began hurting about 2 a.m. Monday. He worked Monday. The pain continued through midnight, so he went to a local hospital at his wife’s urging. A scan revealed his appendix appeared close to rupturing. Gibson was taken by ambulance to another hospital Tuesday and was in surgery within two hours of arriving.

Gibson says he’s appreciative of the kind gestures from many in the sport. Busch sent his plane Friday to bring Gibson to New Hampshire. Team owner Tony Stewart will fly Gibson home on his plane. Rick Hendrick, Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson, who has helped Gibson shed 26 pounds to 237 with a fitness program, all reached out to the former Hendrick Motorsports employee.

This isn’t the first time Gibson has faced a medical issue this season. Gibson remained in his motorhome for the Bristol spring race because of kidney stones. He said that pain was worse than he what he felt earlier this week.

Despite what he’s gone through, Gibson had Busch fifth in Friday’s practice session and is focused ahead in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“This is a part of the season that is crucial,’' Gibson said. “One mistake just knocks you right out. I don’t think stress had anything to do with this. I’m just getting old.’'

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