Not even starting shotgun on the field would stop Tony Stewart from going back-to-back with the Camping World SRX Series on the dirt at Eldora Speedway. The three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and owner of the half-mile took the lead from “Balboa Driver” Kody Swanson with four laps to go and held off the five-time USAC Silver Crown champion to pad his points lead with the series.
“Smoke” was set to start on the pole for the feature for the second straight week, but he ran into a problem before the green – his car kept dying on him. He brought it down to pit road and the SRX team cycled the machine and he was sent on his way.
He rode the outside line around Swanson in the closing laps, who was running the inside line masterfully. The 50-lap feature left Stewart stunned with how the track changed throughout the race.
"To do what Kody was doing is way harder than what I was trying to do," said Stewart. "To run the bottom like that you have to be so easy on the throttle at the exit. I couldn’t roll the corner like he could but it was like the complexion of the race turned two or three times.
“Two-thirds of the way up was good to start the race and I was like okay, we’re going to be good. The longer we ended up going and a couple guys got going on the bottom and the top got going again. Then Kody really got going on the bottom.
His SRX win marks his sixth career win at the track he owns, and his first since 2009. He has also won the Prelude to the Dream and with USAC National Midgets and Sprint Cars.
His ownership of Eldora aside, he finds any win at “The Big E” special.
“The first time I got the lead I could see the crowd cheering. This is one of those few places, it’s like Bristol where you can see the crowd when you’re driving. It was cool to see the fans reacting and having a good time.”
Swanson also came from the back and even took the lead for a period of time in a backup car, but the final restart would prove to be the deciding factor in the main event.
It was an overall strong night for the California-born driver, who also finished third in the USAC Silver Crown race. After getting caught up in a wreck in the second heat, Swanson hit the track for the feature looking to put on a show in front of the fans.
“As a racer you certainly want to win and I hate that we didn’t, but to have to go to a backup with no laps in it, I’m thankful for SRX and their crew’s hard work to give me a second chance. They didn’t have to do that, it means a lot that they did,” Swanson said. “I wanted to try and make it up to them so I hope I helped put on a show.
"I wanted to hustle across and slide job him but I wasn’t sure if I hustled across there I wasn’t going to spin out right in front of him and the whole field. I felt like like that would’ve been an error I couldn’t risk. I gave it everything I had but fell one spot short."
Four-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves finished a strong third. Marco Andretti and Paul Tracy rounded out the top-five.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo
SRX – Eldora Speedway Results:
- Tony Stewart
- Kody Swanson
- Helio Castroneves
- Marco Andretti
- Paul Tracy
- Scott Speed
- Tony Kanaan
- Ernie Francis Jr
- Willy T Ribbs
- Michael Waltrip
- Bobby Labonte
- Bill Elliott