Marco Andretti scored his first career Camping World SRX Series win Saturday night at Slinger Super Speedway. However, most of the race was spent with three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart battling side-by-side with 17-year-old Luke Fenhaus for the lead.
Fenhaus earned his spot in the SRX lineup by virtue of winning the Slinger Nationals on Tuesday, topping a stout field of Super Late Model competitors for the “golden ticket.” Fenhaus started the night with a pair of third-place finishes in heat races, earning a front-row starting spot for the 150-lap feature.
Throughout the race, Fenhaus had several extended battles with both Andretti and Stewart, ultimately finishing second to Andretti and ahead of Stewart.
Andretti may have played the role of spoiler for the partisan Slinger crowd rooting for its hometown star, but he was congratulatory of Fenhaus as the Wausau, Wisconsin native offered his congratulations to Andretti post-race.
"I’ll tell you what, this was not a popular win for me,” Andretti joked. “You’re the man here. I’m proud of you."
Stewart acknowledged meeting the various “Balboa” drivers at SRX’s five stops this season has been a treat for him.
“It’s 12 guys who get to come out each week and have fun and we get to race with a young kid who’s a star at the local track. Getting to spend the day with that kid has been the highlight of my day, to be honest.”
His first exposure to Fenhaus came yesterday, when he stopped in the middle of a day on the lake with fiancé Leah Pruett to watch video of Slinger at the encouragement of his SRX crew.
“We stopped on the lake and looked at some videos on YouTube, and I got to learn about Luke because he was the highlight in a lot of these videos.”
After spending the day with Fenhaus, Stewart had high praises for the rising star, both for his on-track abilities and his composure.
Within five minutes, you really like the kid. He’s the most composed 17-year-old kid I’ve ever seen. There are kids in the Truck Series and Xfinity Series that don’t have the composure that this guy’s got. I hope someone will give this guy a shot. Even if it’s a one-race deal, give him a shot in something to give him a crack at it and see if he can make a name.
Fenhaus had said leading into Saturday’s race the the driver he most looked forward to meeting was Stewart. Meeting Stewart met Fenhaus’ expectations, both on and off the track.
“Running with Tony was incredibly outstanding. The fans loved it, hopefully it was a good show for everyone at home who watched it. It was an incredible week for me, and I’m looking forward to the next step.
“I’ll tell you what, I gained a lot of respect for everyone who drives an SRX car. Tony, especially. I talked to him for a while, and he’s an awesome dude, to say the least. He’s got an awesome personality and I was really looking forward to racing him. I was really glad it turned out the way it did. I’m happy for him and what he’s got going on.
After a whirlwind week which started with a Slinger Nationals win and countless SRX media obligations, Fenhaus admits he’s struggling to soak in the experience. However, he was very appreciative of the kind words being shared by his fellow competitors and hopes someone will take up Stewart on his advice.
"I hope it leads in the right direction, for sure. I’m super excited to see where things go. Me and Tony have a great connection, so hopefully something leads there, or something bigger. I’m looking forward to it. I’m just so happy and humbled to be here."
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo