Tony Stewart remains undefeated on dirt tracks with his win in the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) on the third-mile, high-banked I-55 Speedway in Pevely, Mo. Saturday night. It was Stewart’s fourth career victory in the series he co-owns and the second of 2022 after winning Round 2 at South Boston, Va.
Stewart had to survive multiple restarts as the final 10 laps went into the spin cycle, but the field was no match for his restart ability.
Finishing third in Heat 1, Stewart lined up in the back of the field for the second heat with a field inversion. He didn’t let that slow him down. Stewart charged through the field and ended the short sprint one second ahead of Tony Kanaan.
His third- and first-place finishes in the heats combined to line him up on the pole. On a track that remained tacky and full of moisture for much of the night, Stewart could not quite get away from Ernie Francis, Jr. and Hailie Deegan for the opening laps until his experience finally opened a gap. Then the first competition caution waved on Lap 25. It closed the field up and made for an exciting night.
“This place is pretty awesome,” Stewart said after the race. “You aren’t going to find fans that are any more diehard in this country for late models, modifieds and sprint cars than here at Pevely.”
Stewart entered the race 31 points out of the lead, but he cut that in half and with one more dirt track event on the schedule, he has the potential to win a second championship in as many years. The series closes out their six-race schedule at Sharon Speedway in Hartford Township, Ohio next week. He’ll need to beat NASCAR Cup stars Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott as well as sprint car superstar Dave Blaney if he wants the honor.
It’s impossible to run and hide in the SRX Series because of those competition cautions. As a result, domination looks different. In this case, it came with Stewart’s ability to pull away from the field.
A spin by Kanaan with 10 laps to go set up what should have been a dash to the checkers, but Francis, Bobby Labonte, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and others had different plans, looping their cars on a track that finally slicked over in the final laps. Under SRX rules, the final 10 laps must be run under green flag conditions, which provided plenty of opportunities to restart.
Marco Andretti had plenty of chances to figure out what Stewart was doing on restarts, but in the slicker bottom groove, he had to settle for second.
“This place is so fun,” Andretti said afterwards. “I was taking care of the tires, but then we went yellow for Deegan for so long that I had the better tires at the end but ran out of time. I think if I wasn’t thinking about the championship, I would have had a better go at Tony at the end.”
A pair of drivers with a ton of experience on dirt, Ryan Newman finished third with Ken Schrader, 67, in fourth.
In his seventh SRX start, Greg Biffle rounded out the top five. This was his third career top-five in the series.
Deegan’s battled for a top-three finish for most of the race, but with a late-race caution, her car began to overheat, sending her into the pits. They held the green flag as long as possible and got her out in time to finish the race.
All 13 cars completed the entire distance, although shredded body work made them look a lot different by the end.
Feature: 1. Tony Stewart, 2. Marco Andretti, 3. Ryan Newman, 4. Ken Schrader, 5. Greg Biffle, 6. Michael Waltrip, 7. Ernie Francis, Jr., 8. Paul Tracy, 9. Tony Kanaan, 10. Hailie Deegan, 11. Matt Kenseth, 12. Bobby Labonte, 13. Ryan Hunter-Reay
Heat 1: 1. Ken Schrader, 2. Marco Andretti, 3. Tony Stewart, 4. Greg Biffle, 5. Hailie Deegan, 6. Ernie Francis, Jr., 7. Michael Waltrip, 8. Bobby Labonte, 9. Matt Kenseth, 10. Tony Kanaan, 11. Paul Tracy, 12. Ryan Newman, 13. Ryan Hunter-Reay
Heat 2: 1. Tony Stewart, 2. Tony Kanaan, 3. Ernie Francis, Jr., 4. Matt Kenseth, 5. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 6. Bobby Labonte, 7. Ryan Newman, 8. Hailie Deegan, 9. Ken Schrader, 10. Greg Biffle, 11. Marco Andretti, 12. Michael Waltrip, 13. Paul Tracy
Round 1: Helio Castroneves wins at Five Flags, hopes for NASCAR start
Round 2: Tony Stewart earns third SRX victory and first on a paved track
Round 3: Ryan Newman wins at Stafford as his daughters look on
Round 4: Bobby Labonte battles nerves and the competition for first SRX win