Tony Stewart wins second SRX race at Eldora Speedway as tempers flare

SRX Eldora results
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Tony Stewart drove from the back and fended off a challenge from local hero Kody Swanson to score his second win in the Camping World SRX Series Saturday night at Eldora Speedway.

The SRX series was created by Stewart and Ray Evernham to provide a platform for drivers from multiple disciplines to race in identically-prepared cars. It is patterned after the defunct International Race of Champions. In addition to being part owner of the series, Stewart also owns Eldora Speedway, making him the fan favorite each time he runs there.

Along with 10 fulltime drivers, a ringer who runs in only select events and a local hero are added to the lineup each week to make up the 12-car field. This week the local hero was Kody Swanson, who is the winningest driver in the USAC Silver Crown series with 31 victories and five championships.

The inaugural race at Stafford Speedway was won by that track’s local hero Doug Coby. Stewart won the second race at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway, one of two dirt tracks on the six-race schedule, by holding off a charge by Hailie Deegan, who was subbing for Tony Kanaan.

So the closing laps, came down to which storyline would repeat: the local hero besting the regulars, or Stewart proving his prowess on dirt after starting shotgun on the field after accidentally hitting the kill switch on the pace lap.

“Kody found the bottom,” Stewart said. “I couldn’t roll the bottom as good as he could. I was real dependent on being up top. I just think that’s what Eldora does. The complexion of the track changes in the race.”

The final seven laps featured a battle between Stewart and Swanson, after Stewart took the lead for the first time on Lap 44. Swanson, who was forced to race a backup car in the main event after a Heat 2 accident, wrestled the lead back on Lap 46, and the two ran side-by-side through the corners in the final laps. The top prevailed as Swanson never got far enough ahead of Stewart to complete a slide job.

“I appreciate them letting me have a chance in the backup car,” Swanson said. “I hate to tear up their equipment, and I hate to lose, gosh darn it. I felt like we were really good in the middle of the race, and the bottom just gave up a little bit, and the top of 1 and 2 got working. Once Tony got track position, it was hard to get back by him.”

Helio Castroneves (third) and Marco Andretti (fourth) followed across the line.

But it was fifth-place finisher Paul Tracy who created the most excitement. During the race, several drivers good-naturedly remarked on his level of aggression. By the time the checkered flag waved, much of that goodwill disappeared.

A Lap 45 incident eliminated Bobby Labonte from the race after Tracy spun him while racing for third.

“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, and I was running up top and decided I was going to cut to the bottom like Tony (Stewart) did, and I 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 and he was having none of it.”

Bill Elliott was collected in that wreck and also retired for the third consecutive race.

Willy T. Ribbs made it known that Labonte wasn’t the only driver upset with Tracy.

“There was some banging,” Ribbs said. “Tracy, oh, it’s on baby. You got 11 guys who want you.”

The SRX Series is striving to show a unique personality and has featured some trash-talking among the drivers.

The reason Swanson was forced into a backup car was the result of a Lap 3 accident in Heat 2 when Ernie Francis, Jr. spun Michael Waltrip.

“I reacted OK, but yellow guy, when he’s around you, you gotta know he’s gonna run into people,” Michael Waltrip told CBS reporter Matt Yocum after the incident. “He does it every race. … Yellow guy is Ernie. He runs into me a lot. People, not just me.”

Waltrip was actually collateral damage in an incident involving Francis and Tony Kanaan, who was making his debut on dirt.

“Not sure what happened,” Francis told Brad Daugherty. “I came off Turn 4, me and Kanaan got together and couldn’t get unlocked. He spun around on my front end and we were just along for the ride. I think Waltrip just slid in there and got piled up with the rest of us. I don’t think I took him out at all. He’s getting a little bit old and maybe didn’t see so well.”

Another innovation was a midrace interview with Stewart during green flag conditions.

While being interviewed, Stewart called his pass on Andretti, much like Babe Ruth pointing to the outfield fence before hitting a home run.

With half of the schedule in the books, the series head back to asphalt for Lucas Oil Raceway (July 3), Slinger (Wis.) Speedway (July 10) and Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway (July 17).


RESULTS

Heat Race No. 1 (15 minutes, 24 laps, starting lineup determined by random draw): 1. Tony Stewart (4; led laps 13-17, 19-21, 23-24), 2. Helio Castroneves (3; led laps 18, 22), 3. Paul Tracy (9), 4. Marco Andretti (8), 5. Bobby Labonte (7), 6. Kody Swanson (2nd), 7. Ernie Francis Jr. (10), 8. Bill Elliott (6;), 9. Michael Waltrip (11), 10. Scott Speed (12), 11. Tony Kanaan (1st; led laps 1-12), 12. Willy T. Ribbs (5).

Heat Race No. 2 (15 minutes, 11 laps, starting order was invert of Heat 1 finish): 1. Marco Andretti (9; led laps 4-11), 2. Paul Tracy (10th), 3. Tony Stewart (12), 4. Scott Speed (3), 5. Bobby Labonte (8), 6. Helio Castroneves (11), 7. Bill Elliott (5), 8. Tony Kanaan (2), 9. Willy T. Ribbs (1; led laps 1-3), 10. Ernie Francis Jr. (6th), 11. Michael Waltrip (4), 12. Kody Swanson (7)

Feature (50 laps; starting lineup was based on finishing position in Heat Race No. 2): 1. Tony Stewart (1, but went to back after pace laps; led laps 44-45, 47-50) 50, 2. Kody Swanson (9; led laps 26-33, 34-35, 46) 50, 3. Helio Castroneves (4) 50, 4. Marco Andretti (3) 50, 5. Paul Tracy (2; led laps 1-25, 34-35) 50, 6. Scott Speed (6) 50, 7. Tony Kanaan (10) 50, 8. Ernie Francis, Jr. (8) 50, 9. Willy T. Ribbs (12) 50, 10. Michael Waltrip (11) 50, 11. Bobby Labonte (5) 45, 12. Bill Elliott (7) 45

Points Standings: 1. Tony Stewart (129), 2. Helio Castroneves (96), 3. Ernie Francis, Jr. (90) 4. Tony Kanaan (85)*, 5. Marco Andretti (80), 6. Bobby Labonte (75), 7. Paul Tracy (64), 8. Michael Waltrip (57), 9. Bill Elliott (46), 10. Willy T. Ribbs (38).

* Hailie Deegan earned points for Kanaan at Knoxville

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.