Tony Stewart took a week off from some of his other racing obligations for a little down time. His itinerary?
Eight towns across Ohio in nine days. The three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion plans to follow the All Star Circuit of Champions – the 410 winged sprint car racing series he owns – across the state for Ohio Sprint Speedweek.
On Saturday night, that brought Stewart to Eldora Speedway for the second leg. The Eldora owner also brought his No. 14 winged sprint car and kicked up some dirt with the All Stars on the half-mile, high-banked oval. As owner of the ASCoC, Stewart said he wanted to find one night to race before spending the rest of the week behind the scenes.
“This is the only night of Sprint week I can run. I wanted to get a night I knew we were probably all right,” said Stewart, who finished ninth. “It’s our busiest week of the year so I wanted to make sure everything goes the way we want it to. It’s a big deal to everyone in the state of Ohio and it’s a big deal to the All Stars, too.
“It’s worth it to me to take this week off and one night was okay to come here and run. But the rest of it I need to be a boss.”
Eldora is Stewart’s track, but Pennsylvania driver Tim Shaffer owned it Saturday night. He led all 30 laps for his first All Star victory at Eldora. It was the 57th career All Star win for the four-time ASCoC champion. Shaffer also set fast time (14.466 seconds), won his heat and dash races. He started second on the outside pole for the feature and rocketed to a lead that was never challenged.
“We’ve been so close,” Shaffer said. “We keep beating on the door and if we keep putting ourselves in position we’re going to get there.”
Eldora fan favorite Rico Abreu of California sprinted from his 16th starting spot to finish second.
“It’s the best track in the country. I don’t feel like there’s any place that puts on better racing than Eldora,” Abreu said. “You can start anywhere and run up to the front. … I’ve always committed myself to running the top, running the top, running the top. But now you get good runs on the bottom. It makes it a lot of fun and makes it easier for good cars to run up through the field.”
Stewart, who started 14th, was running 15th with 13 laps to go before working through the pack to finish ninth.
“It felt like I’d been gone a long time. It felt like I was a rookie here again,” Stewart said. “As long as it’s been since I’ve been in a car, I’m kind of getting my feet wet. A lot of things have changed, mainly in the tires. We’re really struggling trying to get going. We’ve got to keep working at it.”
His racing responsibilities don’t slow down too much in July, either. Eldora hosts the Kings Royal – one of dirt sprint car racing’s crown jewels – on July 13-15 and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on July 18-19.
“How do you not look forward to it? It’s a lot of work but it’s pretty gratifying when the races go off well,” Stewart said.
“We’re geared up for it. That’s the great thing about a staff like we have here. You don’t worry about it. Everyone knows what their responsibility and job is. It’s a well orchestrated chaos that we’ve got going on. I’m really proud of our guys.”