Saturday, May 3rd, 2014
By Mike Ernst
Stewart wins Friday feature
World of Outlaws at Eldora
ROSSBURG - A year ago at this time, Shane Stewart didn't know what his sprint car racing career had in store for him.
Six months later, he signed a contract to sign a contract with a new team being put together by NASCAR Rookie of the Year contender Kyle Larson and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitor Justin Marks.
Stewart rewarded the new owners in their first-ever start with the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series with their first victory by leading all 30 laps to capture the $10,000 top prize at Eldora Speedway on Friday night.
"This is surreal," said Stewart as he fought back tears in victory lane. "The last couple of years have been a roller coaster ride. It was a big, tough decision to come here and race with this team, but it is nice to have someone like Kyle to believe in you."
Stewart started the 30-lap main event from outside the front row. After chasing Kraig Kinser down the backstretch on the opening lap, Stewart dove to the inside of Kinser and slid up in front of Kinser for the top spot coming off of turn four on the initial lap and would never relinquish that lead.
Dale Blaney and Outlaw points' leader Joey Saldana had also moved around Kinser when the caution flag flew on lap 17 when David Gravel slowed in turns three and four. With the lapped car moved to the back of the field for the restart, Blaney and Saldana had their chance. Blaney was right beside Stewart with Saldana right behind the leader.
"I didn't know where to go on the restart," Stewart admitted. "I had been good on the top and felt like I would be tough to pass up there, but when you have the quality of cars and drivers we had here tonight lining up behind you. You just don't know what they are doing."
Stewart's plan to stick to the top of the high-banked, 1/2-mile oval worked to perfection as he quickly started stretching the lead back out. The leaders were entering heavy lapped traffic on lap 24 when Stewart made the move, ultimately sealing the win.
With Saldana quickly closing, Stewart threaded the needle between the lapped machines of Brent Marks, Trey Starks and Travis Philo opening a gap that Saldana could never close.
"I thought I had something for him, but he got through the lapped cars a lot better than I did," Saldana said. "It's great to see Shane back out here. We got beat by a great team and a great driver. I wish we could have won but I am happy for him. He deserves it."
Paul McMahan battled past Blaney to take the third-place finish, and knows all too well what the past year has been like for Stewart.
"We had a good race car and was just a little tight. Thought I might get Joey there at the end but I had to get out of it (accelerator) and had to give it to him," McMahan said. "I am really happy for Shane. I was in those exact shoes and the Clements (car owners) believed in me and now we are fighting for an Outlaw championship. It just takes an owner that believes in you and it looks like Shane has that. I couldn't be happier for him."
Fastest qualifier Kerry Madsen finished in the fourth position, while Blaney hung on to pick up a top-five finish. Steve Kinser passed his son Kraig on the final lap to finish in sixth ahead of Kraig, Donny Schatz, Brad Sweet and Jac Haudenschild, who started 21st.
Heat races were won by Stewart, Kraig Kinser, Blaney and Chad Kemenah. Kraig Kinser won the Dash, while Sammy Swindell recovered from heat race mechanical issues to win the Last Chance Showdown.
Paul Pardo led flag-to-flag to become the third different winner in as many events in 2014 when he captured the 15-lap Eldora Stock Car main event. The two previous winners, Jeff Koz and Chris Douglas, chased Pardo throughout the event and settled for second and third-place, while Tony Anderson and Earnie Woodard completed the top five.
The World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series returns to Eldora tonight to wrap up the doubleheader weekend. They will be joined by tonight by the UMP Modifieds. Warm ups begin at 6 p.m. with the first race taking the green flag at 7:30 p.m.
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