TULSA, Okla. — Call Tony Stewart anything but retired: he’s got a lot of racing to do in 2017.
Stewart, who concluded his final season of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing in November and has worked as part of the track preparation and maintenance crew at the Chili Bowl for the past few years, said Thursday night that he anticipates running around 80 races this season at short tracks across the country.
With 71 dates confirmed to his calendar already, Stewart’s season will include dirt late model and dirt sprint car starts among his ventures.
“I’m looking forward to all the stuff we’re going to do this year,” Stewart said on the Racin’ Boys Network telecast. “Late model racing, sprint car racing … I’m building a three-quarter midget to run a couple of fair races this year, so I’m gonna run a lot of different things at a lot of different places and there’s some tracks that I’ve never been to this year that I’m going to get a chance to go to on our schedule.”
“We started working on it last week and we’re up to 71 races. I’m guessing we’re going to get about 10 or 15 more races on there before it’s all said and done … but I can’t wait to get started.”
— Kevin Swindell was back inside the Tulsa Expo Center on Thursday night, but instead of being in the building with a driver’s suit, helmet and race car, the four-time Chili Bowl champion picked up a microphone and joined the Racinboys.com live webcast of the third preliminary night program.
Swindell, who won the 55-lap finale four consecutive years from 2010 to 2013, paid a nod to the pressure on Rico Abreu’s shoulders as Abreu looks to become the second driver to win three straight.
Abreu struggled in his preliminary night on Wednesday, winning his C-Feature after being buried in passing points but spinning out of a transfer spot in his B-Feature, finishing 10th and failing to move into the Wednesday night main event.
“When we did it, nobody else had done it, so every one more just added to (the mystique),” Swindell explained from the booth. “Now, that’s out there to chase … maybe that pressure got to him a little bit on Wednesday night, I don’t know. When I was on my run, every year, I just tried to start over and stay loose with it … just doing my thing.”
“It’s tough on the preliminary nights … it’s just about not eliminating yourself.”
Regardless of how he runs in the alphabet soup on Saturday, Abreu will have a guaranteed position in the championship A-Feature by way of the defending winner’s provisional, which will allow him to start 25th if he doesn’t make the field through regular qualifying races.
— Officially, 96 drivers drew in for John Christner Trucking Night, bringing the three-day event entry total to 274 with one preliminary night remaining.
— The night took a rough turn during the first 10-lap qualifier, when second-running Shon Deskins jumped the turn one cushion and got up into the catchfence as he went airborne.
Deskins’ impact with the fencing forced a rare red flag for fence repairs, after one of the bigger support posts was bent in the crash. All told, the repair work took 12 minutes before racing resumed.
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