Tony Stewart ends his turbulent 2014 season on top as a title-winning owner

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Tony Stewart, the driver, won five of 10 Chase races in 2011 to secure the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. It was also the first title win for Tony Stewart, the car owner, as a co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing with Gene Haas.

But the “car owner” narrative means a bit more this year, as Stewart is at the top of the NASCAR heap this Monday morning as he and Haas are the car owners for newly crowned 2014 champ Kevin Harvick.

For Stewart, it puts a positive ending on what’s been such a challenging season both on and off-track, one that also ended a 15-year run of consecutive seasons with a win in Sprint Cup.

“I’m just glad tonight turned out. You know, the rest of it’s history,” he reflected during the post-race press conference. “We’ve talked about it over and over. Honestly, I’m tired of talking about it to be honest at this point. I’m more excited about what this organization and what this group of people has done together.

“You know, there’s a lot of things I would love to change about the last 18 months of my life, but tonight is not one of them. I’m going to enjoy this moment, and I’m going to enjoy it with this group and this young man. We’re going to go celebrate and enjoy this because this group of people here have deserved it, and this is a great family and this is a great group of people to lean on.”

Stewart took the opportunity to praise Harvick crew chief Rodney Childers, who made the ultimate winning call on pit road.

“If you want to know how hard it is to win a championship here, it boiled down to the calls, the last pit stop and the strategies that were played,” Stewart said. “And one took zero tires, one took two, we took four, and one had a problem in the pits. I think up to that point it was pretty evident the flow of the race up to that point, but I think that was the moment in the race where nobody really knew exactly how those strategies were going to play out.

“But I think all three of the crew chiefs made calls that they thought were appropriate for how their cars were running and track position, and I’m proud of Rodney. It takes guts to sit up there and see a guy stay out and then have to sit there and make that call.”

Stewart reflected on the change in titles, 2011 to 2014, and how NASCAR has evolved over that three-year period.

“The France family hasn’t made bad decisions and got the series where it is by making bad decisions,” he said. “They know what the right things are, and this is a professional sport that has had more technological changes and advances come into the game than any other pro sports. But with that, you have to have a sanctioning body that understands how to take that technology and apply it.

“Our championship in ’11, and this one tonight, there are similarities, but they’re very different in a lot of ways, too. The game has changed between 2011 and 2014. Every stage of this Chase has proven to be so difficult.”

Stewart closed with a line noting, once again, how challenging it is to win a title – and why this one will be so satisfying for him and the entire SHR organization.

“You’ve got to be a little bit crazy to want to do this,” he said. “The odds say you’re going to be unsuccessful more than you’re going to be successful, but it’s those – it’s these single moments like this that make all of that hard work worthwhile, and that’s why we do it.”

Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.