Tony Stewart took the lead for the first time on a Lap 44 restart in Round 2 of the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) at South Boston, Virginia, then swapped the lead with Marco Andretti before he scored his third career win in this series and first on a paved track.
Last year’s champion and a co-owner of the series, Stewart is the only repeat SRX winner.
After high temperatures in Round 1 at Five Flags Speedway, the heat was under the drivers’ helmets at South Boston.
Fired up by an incident in Heat 2, Stewart was determined to do whatever was needed to win, but he was unable to drive away from the field.
Andretti retook the lead on Lap 6 and held off several bumps from Stewart during the next 10 laps. As they battled for the lead, Greg Biffle joined the fray. Battling for second, Andretti made hard contact with Biffle as he tried to complete an aggressive pass. Andretti fell to the back of the field with damage. He finished eighth.
Biffle remained in contact with Stewart for the remainder of the race but could not quite get to his back bumper and finished second.
Another pair of ex-NASCAR drivers, Bobby Labonte and Ryan Newman, took third and fourth, respectively. Last week’s winner Helio Castroneves rounded out the top five in the 12-car field.
“Seeing these fans cheering when we got the lead, that’s what kept the motivation going,” Stewart told CBS Sports’ Matt Yocum. “Not like I need much motivation. When you got fans at South Boston cheering like that every time you take the lead, I was not going to let them down.”
Stewart and Ernie Francis Jr. created fireworks in the second heat. Driving in heavy traffic, Francis chopped Stewart off and raised the ire of the eventual winner.
“They’ve pissed off Uncle Tony right now, so they are about to get a dose of it they don’t want,” Stewart said after Heat 2. “Trust me, I know every dirty trick and got it in my bag. When you’re following somebody and the guy’s on the outside and as soon as he gets clear, he just turns down across, that’s the dumbest (crap) you can do. … I’m done playing nice with everybody.”
After the heat, Stewart confronted Francis and shook him by the collar of his firesuit.
“I’m not going to take that from him,” Francis said. “I know he’s the boss, but rubbing is racing out there. He got up on my inside, I didn’t see him there. I was two-wide with Andretti and someone else. I turned down; didn’t see his car until the last second.”
How much of that was for the camera? Stewart and Francis later were seen smiling and joking before the feature began.
Before the season began, Paul Tracy vowed to have a kindler, gentler image. That went out the window quickly as his resolve was put to the test with too much contact at Five Flags Speedway last week. His opinion of the racing action will not have changed after he was dumped by Castroneves as they battled for the lead in Heat 2.
“The way I see it, it was a racing incident,” Castroneves said. “People start owing each other a little more, understanding what they can and cannot do. I was having such a hard time trying to go to the outside. People kept squeezing me into the wall.”
During the feature, Michael Waltrip and Ryan-Hunter Reay were involved in a wreck that destroyed Waltrip’s car.
— Michael Waltrip (@MW55) June 26, 2022
Heat Race No. 1: 1. Greg Biffle, 2. Tony Stewart, 3. Marco Andretti, 4. Bobby Labonte, 5. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 6. Peyton Sellers, 7. Ryan Newman, 8. Ernie Francis Jr., 9. Tony Kanaan, 10. Michael Waltrip, 11. Helio Castroneves, 12. Paul Tracy
Heat Race No. 2: 1. Helio Castroneves, 2. Marco Andretti, 3. Ryan Newman, 4. Tony Kanaan, 5. Bobby Labonte, 6. Tony Stewart, 7. Michael Waltrip, 8. Greg Biffle, 9. Ernie Francis Jr., 10. Peyton Sellers, 11. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 12. Paul Tracy
Feature: 1. Tony Stewart, 2. Greg Biffle, 3. Bobby Labonte, 4. Ryan Newman, 5. Helio Castroneves, 6. Tony Kanaan, 7. Ernie Francis Jr., 8. Marco Andretti, 9. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 10. Peyton Sellers, 11. Michael Waltrip (DNF), 12. Paul Tracy (DNF)