OCALA, Fla. — Just six weeks into Tony Stewart’s much-publicized and long-awaited ‘Return to Dirt’, the former three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion is a sprint car winner once more.
Stewart started 10th in Saturday night’s United Sprint Car Series Outlaw Thunder Tour filtercharged by K&N main event at Bubba Raceway Park but carved his way through the field, taking the lead from three-time championship runner-up Danny Martin Jr. with 15 laps to go Saturday night and never looking back.
Only a caution and subsequent restart with eight laps left got the field close to Stewart’s tail tank, as the Columbus, Indiana native went on to park him No. 14 Rush Truck Centers / Arctic Cat J&J in victory lane at the three-eighths-mile Florida oval, notching his first-career series victory in the process.
Part of the USCS Spring Speed Xplosion, Saturday night’s event was the Dave Steele Memorial, a 33-lap feature honoring the legendary Florida sprint car driver and two-time Little 500 champion who lost his life in a crash at Desoto Speedway last weekend.
Martin hung on for second ahead of former Southern Ontario Sprint Car Series and Ohsweken Speedway track champion Mitch Brown, who came down to Florida from Canada and completed the podium after starting 13th.
Friday night winner Tyler Clem came home fourth after starting on the pole, with Terry Witherspoon completed the top five.
Finishing sixth through 10th were Michael Miller, Morgan Turpen, Shawn Murray, Mark Ruel Jr. and Terry Gray.
The win is Stewart’s first in sprint car racing this year and first since July 18, 2014 at Michigan’s Tri-City Motor Speedway, in a 360ci Engine Pro Sprints on Dirt feature event.
It comes following a Florida Speedweeks that saw Stewart garner two mid-pack finishes at the Ocala oval in Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions action and withdraw from the weekend’s finale, later sparking reports that he was reconsidering his sprint car schedule.
Those talks were almost certainly put to rest Saturday night, however, with redemption and relief being the key words and emotions in victory lane.
Thomas Kennedy, Turpen and Gray each won heat races during the night’s action, while reigning series Rookie of the Year Danny Sams III won the B-Main.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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