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 FoxSports.com’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 TJSlideways.com 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.”

Gabby Chaves to sub for Joao Barbosa at Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen

Photo: IndyCar
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Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.

The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.

Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.

Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.

“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”

Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”

Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.

The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.

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