Shane Stewart Chases Another One at Salina
SALINA, OKLA. — October 19, 2016 — Shane Stewart has won on some of the biggest stages with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series in his career. He has claimed the Kings Royal at the famed Eldora Speedway in Ohio, as well as the Ironman 55 at I-55 Raceway in Missouri. He has also been victorious on preliminary nights during the Knoxville Nationals at the legendary Knoxville Raceway in Iowa and at the Gold Cup Race of Champions at Silver Dollar Speedway in California. A win that ranks right up there with those, came last year at Salina Highbanks Speedway in Oklahoma, which is about an hour from Bixby, Okla., where the veteran driver was born and raised.
Stewart returns to Salina Highbanks Speedway this week, on Saturday, October 22 for the running of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Twister Showdown, which was postponed by rain back in April. The event marks the final race before the series heads to Charlotte to wrap up the 2016 campaign with the running of the Bad Boy Off Road World Finals.
“That was a big win last year,” said Stewart. “Salina was one of the tracks that I had on my ‘Wanted to win’ list. Being close to home, having friends and family there that we never get to race in front of, made it such a big win. Brad (Sweet) and I had a really good race late in the race.”
Salina Highbanks Speedway is one of the steepest tracks, in terms of banking, that the series races on all season. Stewart has had his fair share of success at Eldora Speedway in Ohio over the years, which is comparable to Salina on a few different fronts. The driver of the No. 2 machine for Larson Marks Racing, has four World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series wins at Eldora in his career, including last month during the Four-Crown Nationals weekend.
“In a sense, Salina is similar to Eldora (Speedway),” Stewart noted. “It’s shaped different and races a little bit different than Eldora, because you don’t have walls on the corners, so that changes things drastically. As far as speed, it feels very close to Eldora. This year we are going back later in the year, with cooler temperatures, so we’ll have to see what the surface is like. Salina is quick, and it’s a high-speed place.”
Stewart and his team picked up back-to-back wins a few weeks ago at Hartford Speedway in Michigan and Eldora, to bring their season tally to eight A-Feature wins and nine overall triumphs, including a preliminary night at Knoxville. The late-season surge also has moved him into a battle with Joey Saldana for the fifth position in points, with just four A-Feature events remaining on the season, entering this weekend’s pair of races.
“We’ve been on a roller-coaster this whole season,” explained Stewart, who team is co-owned by Kyle Larson and Justin Marks. “We’ll go through spurts when we feel like we are gaining and get some momentum and then something happens. Every time I feel like we are going in the right direction, we go two steps back. Unfortunately, that’s just part of our business. It’s a tough deal out here and I feel like we have been going through some sophomore blues this year. We set the pinnacle pretty high last year with our performances, winning some big some big race and felt like we should be there again this year, but it hasn’t quite worked out for us.”
Last season was the Larson Marks Racing team’s first full year on the road with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series. Stewart won nine races and finished second in points to seven-time and defending series champion Donny Schatz. Stewart has already surpassed the number of top-10 finishes he earned in 2015, with 62 and has 37 top-fives, which is just one behind last year’s tally. Stewart has been fastest in time trials on four occasions, which is just one behind his total from 2015.
“We keep learning and we’ve gained a lot of momentum from the beginning of the year to where we are now,” he shared. “Lately our finishes have shown that. It’s all about getting qualified. You have to put yourself in the right spot to get yourself in that dash to have a chance at winning races. That’s an area we have been working hard to get better at, timing in well.”
With the 2017 season beginning around 100 days after the 2016 campaign wraps up, Stewart and his team are already busy preparing for next year by trying different combinations as this season winds down to try and get a head-start on next year. With the grueling demands of the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series schedule, being ahead of the curve when a new season opens is vital to having a strong season.
“Since we are out of the points chase for the top two or three spots, we are definitely working on things for next year,” said Stewart. “We want to go to Volusia (Speedway Park in Florida) next season and hopefully we start off better there. We’ve struggled there the last two years. I think we are gaining a little more momentum in dealing with tracks like that. Hopefully we can leave Florida next year a little better in points and not seem like we having to claw our way up through Las Vegas and the West Coast swing. We continue to work on getting our car faster each night and hopefully that continues for next year.”
Tickets for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Twister Showdown for the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series event at Salina Highbanks Speedway in Salina, Okla., on Saturday, October 22 can be purchased online at slspromotions.ticketforce.com and at the track on race day.
Discount General Admission tickets can also be purchased at participating O’Reilly Auto Parts stores. Each General Admission ticket purchased at an O’Reilly Auto Parts location will feature a special $5 discount. Tickets buyers will exchange their O’Reilly receipt for tickets at the Main Grandstand ticket booth on race day.
For more information on tickets, visit slspromotions.ticketforce.com.