Stewart’s sprint car win excites Michigan dirt track owner, fans

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Tri-City Motor Speedway (Auburn, Mich.) owner Steve Puvalowski wasn’t exactly sure what to make of the giant hauler bearing the word “Smoke” when it pulled into his track yesterday afternoon.

But it eventually became clear that a very special guest would be coming to race.

Last night at Tri-City, three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart returned to sprint car racing for the first time since his season-ending crash last year at the Southern Iowa Speedway.

After finishing second in his heat, Stewart was able to make a late charge to the front in last night’s Sprints on Dirt feature before winning in front of a jacked-up, near-capacity crowd.

“I don’t know how he chose Tri-City to come race at,” Puvalowski said to the Midland (Mich.) Daily News. “I know he’s raced with Sprints on Dirt before. I’m pretty sure it was at Plymouth Speedway in Ohio.”

But while Puvalowski couldn’t figure out why Stewart decided to show up to Tri-City, you can bet that he and the fans in attendance were more than happy to have him visit.

“He’s a real nice guy, and this kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (for our racetrack) – it was definitely a great crowd pleaser,” he said, adding that Stewart signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans for a short time in post-race.

“People loved it. It was a great race. There was a lot of action going on. It was a great race by itself, and having Tony Stewart there made it an awesome race.”

And Stewart’s apparently not done with his dirt-track fun on this off-weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. According to’s Tom Jensen, Stewart is competing tonight in another Sprints on Dirt event at Crystal (Mich.) Motor Speedway.

In addition, noted sprint car racing site has tweeted tonight’s SOD roster at Crystal, with Stewart and his familiar No. 14 on it:

Indeed, Stewart is remaining true to his word after vowing back in May that his big wreck wouldn’t stop him from doing what he wants.

“I’m going to live my life,” he said at the time. “It’s nobody else’s decision, but mine. I think there are a lot worse things I could be doing with my life than what I choose to do.”

Mercedes: F1 teams need to work together to avoid split

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Friday that Formula One teams have a responsibility to try to overcome their differences over the future of the sport in the face of a threat by Ferrari to quit because of a number of proposed changes.

Bernie Ecclestone, who ran F1 for 40 years before being replaced by new owners Liberty Media last year, has raised the possibility that Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne could walk away from F1 and form a breakaway series over Liberty’s future vision for the sport.

Ferrari is unhappy with Liberty’s proposal to simplify engines and redistribute prize money among F1 teams after the current contract with teams expires at the end of 2020.

Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene would not comment on the specifics of Marchionne’s previous comments at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Friday, but said: “My only suggestion, please take him seriously.”

Wolff is also taking the possibility of Ferrari walking away seriously. He told Britain’s Press Association before the Australian GP that he agreed with Marchionne’s concerns and that Formula One can’t afford to alienate Ferrari or lose the team.

“Don’t mess with Sergio Marchionne,” he said. “Formula One needs Ferrari much more than Ferrari needs Formula One.”

Wolff was more diplomatic on Friday, saying he hopes all sides could come together for the good of the sport.

“I think this as much a battle on track as much as it is a fight off track for an advantage,” he said. “It is clear the current governance and how the rules are being made is not very functional. There’s too much different opinions and agendas on the table and we need to sort it for 2021 for the best interest of the sport.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner agreed there are too many competing agendas, suggesting that the FIA-Formula One’s governing body-and Liberty Media come together to decide on a set of regulations and financial framework for the next contract and the teams can then decide if they want to accept it or not.

“Trying to get a consensus between teams that have varying objectives, different set-ups, is going to be impossible,” he said. “It’s history repeating itself. It happens every five or six years, every time the Concorde Agreement comes up for renewal.”

Tempers also flared during Friday’s media conference over another issue of contention between the teams – Ferrari’s recent hiring of FIA’s ex-safety director, Laurent Mekies.

Horner believes Ferrari broke an agreement among teams at a recent meeting to institute a 12-month waiting period for any former employee of FIA or FOM (Formula One Management) to be able to start working for one of F1’s teams. The concern is that former FIA staff who go to work for a specific team could share secrets from other teams.

“Certain teams were pushing for that period to be three years, but in the end it was agreed upon being 12 months,” he said. “It almost makes those meetings pointless if we can’t agree on something and action it.”

Arrivabene defended Ferrari’s move, saying Mekies would not join its team until after a six-month “gardening leave” period.

“There is nothing wrong with that because we were absolutely respecting the local law, the Swiss local law where Laurent was hired,” he said.