Story By: TYLER ALTMEYER / TONY STEWART RACING – BROWNSBURG, IN – “Smoke” Tony Stewart kicked-off his 2018 winged sprint car campaign in a hurry, entering seven events in ten days at two of north Florida’s well-known dirt ovals.
During his ten-day visit, Stewart, aboard his Rush Truck Centers/Textron Off Road/Ford Performance/Sage Fruit/Curb Records/No. 14, accumulated four top-ten finishes, two within the top-five, highlighted with a runner-up performance during Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1 competition at Bubba Raceway Park on Thursday, February 1.
The Columbus, Ind., native earned his runner-up finish from the front row, solidifying a top-two starting positioning by finishing second during his respective heat race and winning the second of two dashes.
Stewart’s runner-up performance was followed by a second consecutive top-ten finish on Friday evening, crossing under the final checkers ninth in the running order after starting on the outside of row four. The top-ten was set-up by a dash appearance, the result of recording the fastest time during his respective qualifying group and finishing third during heat race competition.
Stewart’s success with the All Star Circuit of Champions is certainly nothing new to his racing resume, earning five top-five finishes in 20 main event starts in 2017 including a victory at Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway.
“It was a solid start for our team,” Tony Stewart explained. “We still have some things we need to work on, but all in all, it was a solid start to the season. Jimmy and Marty worked their tails off this off-season to get us to this point. We’ll keep plugging away and work to get this Rush Truck Centers, No. 14 up front.”
On the whole, Stewart joined the All Star Circuit of Champions for a total of five events in the Sunshine State, qualifying for all five programs contested at Bubba Raceway Park and Volusia Speedway Park between February 1-8, scoring results equaling no worse than 22nd in the running order. After his pair of top-ten performances, “Smoke” finished 11th at Bubba Raceway Park on February 3; 22nd at Volusia Speedway Park on February 7; and 18th at Volusia Speedway Park on February 8.
Once the All Stars concluded competition at Volusia Speedway Park on February 8, Stewart switched focus and traveled back across Route 40, revisiting Bubba Raceway Park just north of Ocala for a pair of United Sprint Car Series Thunder Tour events on Friday and Saturday, February 9-10. In impressive fashion, the Tony Stewart Racing entry earned back-to-back top-ten finishes during the pair of 360ci sprint car programs, climbing a total of 24 positions in two days to finish fifth and seventh, respectively.
“We had a lot of fun in Ocala,” Stewart added. “We kinda had to dig ourselves out of a hole on both nights after not transferring through our heat races, but we recovered and had a lot of fun doing it. Hopefully next time we can get ourselves a little closer to the front and not have to work so hard.”
Stewart’s plans for the next few weeks have not been finalized.