Tony Stewart made it back-to-back victories in the Camping World SRX Series by winning the third race of the six-race short-track series Saturday night at Eldora Speedway.
Stewart put on a show at the track that he owns, starting from last in the 12-driver field to lead twice for six laps – all in the last seven laps of the 50-lap feature race at the half-mile, high-banked clay oval.
“Jack Hewitt was probably the best I’ve ever seen here at Eldora and I learned a couple of things watching him win the 4-Crown one year where he won all four divisions, and I used that line a lot early in the race here today and it helped out a lot,” said Stewart, referring to sprint car and midget racer Hewitt’s sweep of the 1998 4-Crown Nationals at Eldora.
Stewart won the previous Camping World SRX Series event at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway on June 19, taking his first SRX win and the series’ first on a dirt track. Eldora marked the second and final dirt track race on the SRX schedule and Stewart showcased his versatility by holding off local all-star Kody Swanson by .481 of a second.
“Kody found the bottom. I couldn’t roll the bottom as good as he could. I was real dependent on being up on the top. I just think that’s what Eldora does – the complexion of the track changes during the race,” Stewart said.
“I thought the top was good in the beginning in the main and then Kody got just crushing everybody on the bottom and got rolling through there. But the good thing was when he went by, everybody else followed him down there like they were in a parade and left the top open. And the longer we went, I finally got the momentum going on the top to get back by him.”
— Camping World SRX Series (@SRXracing) June 27, 2021
Swanson, the five-time USAC Silver Crown champion who leads the division in wins (30) and poles (31), nearly pulled off another victory for the local all-stars, emulating Doug Coby’s win in the Camping World SRX Series season opener on June 12 at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway.
“I felt like we had a really strong car through the middle of the race,” said Swanson, who was forced into a backup car for the feature race after sustaining damage to his primary car in the second heat race. “I really appreciate everybody with SRX and the guys on the crews. They built 16 cars to come out and put this on in a short amount of time and I appreciate them letting me have a chance in a backup car. I hate to tear up their equipment and I hate to lose.
“I felt like we were really good in the middle of the race and the bottom just kind of gave up a little bit and I got the top of (turns) one and two working. But once Tony had track position, it was hard to get back by him. I felt like I had a chance there but I just didn’t hit the bottom perfect and he got back around. It’s awful hard to beat him here at Eldora.”
Four-time and reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves acquitted himself well at Eldora, finishing a stout third and rising to second in the Camping World SRX Series championship standings, 33 points behind Stewart.
“It was crazy, especially on the restarts with PT. My goodness, I didn’t have anywhere to go except the wall and I kept hitting the wall,” said Castroneves, with his reference to P.T. being fellow driver Paul Tracy. “After that, something happened. It was really difficult – my car was really loose. So in the end, I said I’ve got to go to the bottom because I saw some of the guys go to the bottom – that’s the only way for my car to have a shot. The long runs were terrible for me. Restarts were the best. So, I kept it relatively clean, but man, I can’t believe it’s my first podium on the dirt. That is awesome.”
The most talked-about driver was Tracy. The 2003 NTT INDYCAR Series champion led the first 25 laps of the 50-lap feature and used the bumper and fenders of his purpose-built SRX racecar prodigiously to protect that lead and then defend his position as Swanson, Castroneves, Marco Andretti and Bobby Labonte surged toward the front.
“I know I’m going to have some Bobby Labonte fans after me because he’s super pissed at me, and rightly so,” Tracy said. “He got by me on the restart. I was running on top and I decided I was going to cut to the bottom like Tony did and I just got it all wrong. He turned in a little earlier than I thought he would and I tagged him and that was it. So that was my bad and I went over to apologize to him he was having none of it.
“The SRX cars put on a great show. I felt really good on this track. This is a wonderful track that Tony has and I couldn’t be happier with how we ran overall tonight. We picked up a lot of points and hopefully made some new fans. I’m sure we made some enemies because those Bobby Labonte fans probably hate me.”
— Camping World SRX Series (@SRXracing) June 27, 2021
The fender-banging and door-slamming proved entertaining and crowd-pleasing, but the repercussions left a lot of work for Camping World SRX Series co-founder Ray Evernham and his team of mechanics.
“I think we had another good show tonight but, as race director, I’ve got a couple of phone calls to make to some people this week where I’ll have to say, ‘Look, this is for fun.’ We’ve got a lot of torn-up cars, but it sounds like the fans like it,” Evernham said.
“We should’ve put Kody in that practice car to begin with. It looked like he liked it better than his original car. I knew when both of them got to the front, when Kody was on the bottom and Tony was on the top, I knew it was going to be pretty exciting. I thought Kody had it won on the last lap because I thought he was rolling the bottom good enough to slide up in front of Tony.
“I thought it was great, but I’ve got to wait what and see the fans think.”
After two straight dirt-track races at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway and Eldora, the Camping World SRX Series returns to pavement for its fourth race July 3 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Indiana. Bobby Santos III is the local all-star who will join the Camping World SRX Series regulars at the .686-mile asphalt oval near Indianapolis.
Santos is from Franklin, Massachusetts, and is best known for his success on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Nicknamed “Bobby New England,” Santos has 149 career Modified Tour starts with 19 victories, 54 top-five finishes and 18 pole positions to go along with his 2010 series championship. Additionally, Santos has excelled in USAC, scoring 10 career Silver Crown wins, including four at Lucas Oil Raceway. Two of his seven career National Sprint Car victories have come at Lucas Oil Raceway, as well as one of his 11 career victories in the Champion Midget category. The versatile Santos is a four-time winner of the A.J. Foyt Championship (2006, 2011, 2017 and 2020), which is awarded to the driver with the season-best points tally at Lucas Oil Raceway in USAC’s top-three series – Silver Crown, Sprint Car and Midget.
Returning to the Camping World SRX Series for a second straight week is Scott Speed. The Manteca, California-native finished sixth on the dirt at Eldora and now he will test his mettle on asphalt.
Speed is one of the most versatile drivers in motorsports. His career began with his climb up the American open-wheel ladder and it took him all the way to Formula One in 2006 and 2007, after which he turned his attention to American stock car racing, where Speed rose to the elite NASCAR Cup Series as a driver for Team Red Bull. Over the last decade, Speed has made his mark on the worldwide Rallycross stage, winning three Summer X Games gold medals from 2013 through 2015 for Team USA and five consecutive Rallycross championships from 2013 through 2017 for Andretti Autosport.
Relive all the exciting moments from the night of racing! pic.twitter.com/uEiFVej8Bw
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) June 27, 2021
After Lucas Oil Raceway, the Camping World SRX Series ventures north to Slinger (Wis.) Speedway on July 10 before its season finale July 17 at the Nashville (Tenn.) Fairgrounds Speedway.
Every Camping World SRX Series race is broadcast live at 8 p.m. ET on the CBS Television Network with streaming on Paramount+ Premium.
Heat Race No. 1 (12 minutes, 24 laps):
Note: Starting lineup determined by random draw.
1. Tony Stewart (Started 4th; led laps 13-17, 19-21, 23-24)
2. Helio Castroneves (Started 3rd; led laps 18, 22; completed 24/24 laps)
3. Paul Tracy (Started 9th; completed 24/24 laps)
4. Marco Andretti (Started 8th; completed 24/24 laps)
5. Bobby Labonte (Started 7th; completed 24/24 laps)
6. Kody Swanson (Started 2nd; completed 24/24 laps)
7. Ernie Francis Jr. (Started 10th; completed 24/24 laps)
8. Bill Elliott (Started 6th; led laps completed 24/24laps)
9. Michael Waltrip (Started 11th; led laps completed 24/24 laps)
10. Scott Speed (Started 12th; led laps completed 24/24 laps)
11. Tony Kanaan (Started 1st; led laps 1-12; completed 24/24 laps)
12. Willy T. Ribbs (Started 5th; led laps completed 24/24 laps)
Heat Race No. 2 (12 minutes, 11 laps):
Note: Drivers’ finishing positions in Heat Race No. 1 were inverted for start of Heat Race No. 2.
1. Marco Andretti (Started 9th; led laps 4-11)
2. Paul Tracy (Started 10th; completed 11/11 laps)
3. Tony Stewart (Started 12th; completed 11/11 laps)
4. Scott Speed (Started 3rd; completed 11/11 laps)
5. Bobby Labonte (Started 8th; completed 11/11 laps)
6. Helio Castroneves (Started 11th; completed 11/11 laps)
7. Bill Elliott (Started 5th; led laps completed 11/11 laps)
8. Tony Kanaan (Started 2nd; led laps completed 11/11 laps)
9. Willy T. Ribbs (Started 1st; led laps 1-3; completed 11/11 laps)
10. Ernie Francis Jr. (Started 6th; completed 3/11 laps)
11. Michael Waltrip (Started 4th; completed 3/11 laps)
12. Kody Swanson (Started 7th; completed 3/11 laps)
Feature Results (50 laps):
Note: Starting lineup was based on average finishing positions in Heat Race Nos. 1-2.
1. Tony Stewart (Started 1st, but went to back after pace laps; led laps 44-45, 47-50)
2. Kody Swanson (Started 9th; led laps 26-33, 34-35, 46; completed 50/50 laps)
3. Helio Castroneves (Started 4th; completed 50/50 laps)
4. Marco Andretti (Started 3rd; completed 50/50 laps)
5. Paul Tracy (Started 2nd; led laps 1-25, 34-35; completed 50/50 laps)
6. Scott Speed (Started 6th; completed 50/50 laps)
7. Tony Kanaan (Started 10th; completed 50/50 laps)
8. Ernie Francis Jr. (Started 8th; completed 50/50 laps)
9. Willy T. Ribbs (Started 12th; completed 50/50 laps)
10. Michael Waltrip (Started 11th; completed 50/50 laps)
11. Bobby Labonte (Started 5th; completed 45/50 laps)
12. Bill Elliott (Started 7th; completed 45/50 laps)
Camping World SRX Series Championship Standings (after Round 3 of 6):
1. Tony Stewart (129 points)
2. Helio Castroneves (96 points, -33)
3. Ernie Francis Jr. (90 points, -39)
4. Marco Andretti (80 points, -49)
5. Bobby Labonte (75 points, -54)
6. Paul Tracy (64 points, -65)
7. Michael Waltrip (57 points, -72)
8. Bill Elliott (46 points, -83)
9. Tony Kanaan (45 points, -84)
10. Willy T. Ribbs (38 points, -91)
Note: Points are awarded in both heats and the feature. In each heat, the winner receives a maximum of 12 points. Second place earns 11 points with every position in descending order receiving one fewer point, with the 12th-place finisher earning one point. Points increase in the feature, with the winner receiving 25 points, second place 22 points, third place 20 points, fourth place 18 points, fifth place 16 points, sixth place 14 points, seventh place 12 points, eighth place 10 points, ninth place eight points, 10th place six points, 11th place four points and 12th place two points.