Tony Stewart has visited Knoxville Raceway victory lane a countless amount of times. However, until Saturday night, that was as a team owner for Danny Lasoski and Donny Schatz and their Knoxville Nationals triumphs.
That changed Saturday night, picking up his first career win at the Sprint Car Capital of the World with the Camping World SRX Series. It was a part of a sweep of the night for the NASCAR Hall of Famer, who also saw his No. 14 Sprint Car win the 410 feature with Kerry Madsen behind the wheel.
“That was the first win as a driver, at least. I’ve been on this stage for a long time with Donny Schatz and Danny Lasoski at the Knoxville Nationals with a Winged Sprint Car,” Stewart said. “It’s nice to be here as a driver and get a win too.”
Stewart started off the night’s event with a heat race win after holding off Hailie Deegan for most of the race, then Marco Andretti in the final laps. A fourth-place result in the second heat would put him on the pole for the feature.
Aside from losing the lead to Michael Waltrip in the early stages of the 50-lap main event, it was a dominating effort from Stewart. He led 43 laps on the way to the win.
“We felt really good after the first heat race and then I was just trying to figure out how I was going to get through traffic in the second heat. The groove I ran was a lane off the bottom and in the second heat everyone fought for the bottom and left the second lane open so I was able to get the majority of the way through pretty early.
“I was glad to get enough points to start on the pole for it but I didn’t feel like it was going to be a cakewalk. Bloomquist got to second early and I thought man, he’s going to be tough. I was going to have to figure out how to get good on the bottom, I felt decent in one and two but I never could get three and four settled out.”
Hailie Deegan used a last-lap pass on Ernie Francis Jr to take the runner-up spot in her debut with SRX filling in for Tony Kanaan. It was a wild weekend for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular, who only got four laps of practice on Saturday after having competed at Nashville Superspeedway Friday night.
“That was crazy, it was so much fun. Ray put on a great show here, he absolutely killed it here with SRX. The track was great, it held through a lot better than I thought it was going to during the race,” Deegan said. “We made that last lap pass just wrapping the bottom and keeping it was a consistent line, it was a good night.”
Francis, four-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves and Michael Waltrip rounded out the top-five.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo