Big surprise: Tony Stewart won the Camping World SRX Series race at Eldora Speedway on Thursday night (Aug. 10).
The third-year series has now stage two races at the Rossburg, Ohio, track, and Stewart has won them both pretty handedly.
The win on Thursday was an especially dominant performance by Stewart, as he became the first driver in series history to sweep the heats and win the main event in the same night. The three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion started on the pole for the main event and led all 75 laps en route to claiming the trophy.
Stewart owns Eldora. I’m not just saying that because he’s been so dominant there. Stewart is literally the owner of Eldora Speedway, a title he has held since 2004.
The Columbus, Indiana, native is already the best dirt racer in the series. He’s been racing on dirt for decades, and it has translated into success when SRX takes to the mud. Stewart has now won four of the five dirt races in series history, and came in second in the one dirt race he couldn’t seal the deal on.
So throw in the fact that Stewart has raced at Eldora several times and ridden his four wheeler across every foot of land at the track for even more events, and it’s not even fair to the rest of the competition.
On top of that, Stewart is a co-owner of the series. So when SRX heads to Eldora, it is what I call the Tony Stewart Invitational because it’s basically a night where Stewart invites all his buddies out to have a good time and race at his track — which is awesome.
But he is going to win. Smoke is too great of a competitor to let anyone else take the top step of the podium even when he has the ultimate home field advantage. And I’m glad he doesn’t sandbag to let others win at Eldora. Fans would see right through it.
Stewart had not even been having that great of an SRX season prior to Thursday night. He was winless going into the race and had only posted one top five on the season. But none of that mattered when the tour got to Eldora.
I was watching timing and scoring for chunks of the race, and Stewart was regularly three-tenths of a second faster than the closest competition. It looked like he was the only driver to turn lap times under 19 seconds.
So is it still a good event for the series if you know, barring some kind of wreck or mechanical failure, who is going to crush the field? That’s up for the fans to determine. I do like that the series didn’t go to Eldora last year and hope they continue to rotate it on and off the schedule every other year.
Despite the dominant showing by Stewart, it was still an entertaining race through the field. Hailie Deegan, Ryan Newman and Ken Schrader all had shots at Stewart at various points and put on an entertaining battle for second place. Unfortunately, Schrader got caught up in a wreck and never found his way near the front again.
But Deegan impressed a lot of fans and even some haters that have been critical of her time in the Craftsman Truck Series. And Newman gave another consistent run that put him that much closer to a championship.
Stewart’s dominant performance kept him from being mathematically eliminated from championship contention, but no one else has a shot at catching Newman in points next week at Lucas Oil Speedway. According to Toby Christie‘s Joseph Srigley, Stewart now trails Newman by 39 points.
Next week, Stewart would essentially have to have another night like at Eldora while Newman has a bad night. The maximum points Stewart can score next week is 50, and the minimum Newman can score just by starting both heats and the main event is four points.
That is unless some surprise points get thrown in there sometime between now and the start of next week’s race like what happened with Marco Andretti last year. Those extra points added to Andretti ended up being the difference in him winning the championship over Newman, so it would only be right for Newman to win the championship outright this year.
That is if SRX even has enough racecars left to race next week in Wheatland, Missouri. In heat 1 at Eldora, Austin Dillon, in his SRX debut, seemed to blow his engine and went straight into the outside wall. Deegan, Andretti, Matt Kenseth, Chase Briscoe (also in his SRX debut) and Tony Kanaan all piled into the wreck.
Kenseth was able to keep going while Deegan and Andretti were both given backup cars, as they are both full time and going for points. All three capitalized, with Deegan finishing second, Kenseth fifth and Andretti sixth in the main event.
It’s a bummer that Thursday was the only time Kenseth will race in SRX this year. He said on a recent episode of the Dale Jr. Download that he would’ve been interested in doing the full season.
Briscoe, who was a late addition to the race following Paul Tracy‘s suspension, missed the start of the main event but was able to wheel a heavily damaged No. 57 onto the track roughly 35 laps into it. Fortunately for the Cup regular, he was given his laps back and passed a few cars to finish seventh.
Still, it’s a shame that Briscoe was unable to race the whole night in an undamaged car against his hero and boss Stewart. Heck, he might’ve had something for him.
Dillon and Kanaan were unable to race the rest of the night. So it was a quick night for Dillon in his debut, and an unceremonious end to what might have been Kanaan’s last race in the U.S.
In the main event itself, I mentioned Schrader got a lot of damage. Add to that that Ron Capps crashed out of the race seven laps shy of the finish and was credited with 10th. Still, the NHRA drag racer turned many heads in his series debut and a rare instance where he drives on an oval.
If you’re keeping score, that’s five cars that got totaled Thursday night and two more with serious damage. The SRX crew will have their work cut out for them to get 12 functioning racecars available for Wheatland. And if anyone crashes in the heats there, there may not be any backup cars available to them.
The good news for the hard-working SRX crew is that after Wheatland, they can finally rest and have a whole offseason to reassemble racecars.
The SRX season finale at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Missouri, will start at 9 p.m. ET on Thursday, Aug. 17. Catch the action on ESPN.
About the author
Michael Massie is a writer for Frontstretch. Massie, a Richmond, Va. native, has been a NASCAR superfan since childhood, when he frequented races at Richmond International Raceway. Massie is a lover of short track racing and travels around to the ones in his region. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies.
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