Tony Stewart won the Camping World SRX Series race Saturday night at Knoxville Raceway, leading twice for a race-high 43 laps to take his first victory as a driver at the half-mile, semi-banked dirt oval roughly 40 miles southeast of Des Moines, IA.
“It’s the first time I’ve been in victory lane at Knoxville,” said Stewart, who has witnessed his sprint car drivers at Tony Stewart Racing win the prestigious Knoxville Nationals 11 times. “This is where I’ve watched Donny Schatz and Steve Kinser and the greatest of the greats in sprint car racing. This is the place I’ve always wanted to be, for sure, so this is pretty cool.
“This is the Sprint Car Capital of the World,” said Smoke after the race. “I want to thank the Knoxville staff and all the fans. They’re not used to tin tops, and if they see tin, they want to see it on top of the cage, not surrounding the cage. Just appreciate the fans and everybody for letting us come here.”
Stewart won the first heat race and finished fourth in the second heat race to line up first in the feature event. He led the first 13 laps until Michael Waltrip took the top spot, but Stewart reasserted himself on lap 21 and held the point for the final 30 laps. Hailie Deegan finished second with a spirited drive and Ernie Francis Jr., impressed again with a strong third-place finish.
“My goal coming into this race was to prove to everyone that I deserved to be here. I feel like we did that tonight, running second to Tony Stewart, that’s a huge accomplishment for me,” said Deegan, a three-time winner in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West – one of which came on dirt Feb. 28, 2019 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track. “I feel like we just ran a clean race, we just wrapped the bottom, stayed consistent, ran my line and finished second.”
Deegan substituted for Tony Kanaan, as a schedule conflict prevented him from competing at Knoxville. The 19-year-old Deegan will fill in for Kanaan again July 10 at Slinger (Wis.) Speedway as Kanaan is slated to race in his native Brazil.
Francis is the winningest driver in the 55-year history of the SCCA Trans Am Series, all while being just 23 years old. He is the youngest champion in Trans Am history and is the youngest professional driver to win seven consecutive championships. Francis finished fourth in the Camping World SRX Series season-opener last Saturday night at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway.
“Not too bad for my second-ever dirt race,” Francis said. “We were just kind of riding around there trying to save the tires as much as I could. The car wasn’t as good in the feature as it was in the heat races, so I was just trying to keep the back end underneath me and just try to save it as much as I could, try to keep my position and I really had an awesome battle with Hailie out there. I was trying to get to the back of Tony’s bumper to try and get by him, but you can’t be happier than this. It was an awesome race. The car’s a little beat up, but I can’t wait to get to the next one.”
The victory marked Stewart’s third win of the season – all of which have come on dirt. He began 2021 by winning the final feature of the inaugural Wild Wing Shootout 410 sprint car event Jan. 24 at Arizona Speedway in San Tan Valley and then the All-Star Circuit of Champions 410 Winged Sprint Car feature April 15 at Virginia Motor Speedway in Jamaica.
The Camping World SRX Series remains on dirt for a second straight week. The third event of the Camping World SRX Series’ six-race short-track schedule takes place June 26 at the legendary Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. Five-time USAC Silver Crown champion Kody Swanson and F1 ringer Scott Speed will join the regulars for the next race at Eldora’s half-mile, dirt oval.
50-Lap Feature Results
(Note: Starting lineup was based on average finishing positions in Heat Race Nos. 1-2.)
1. Tony Stewart (Started 1st; led laps 1-13, 21-50)
2. Hailie Deegan (Started 3rd; completed 50/50 laps)
3. Ernie Francis Jr. (Started 2nd; completed 50/50 laps)
4. Helio Castroneves (Started 9th; completed 50/50 laps)
5. Michael Waltrip (Started 7th; led laps 14-20; completed 50/50 laps)
6. Bobby Labonte (Started 10th; completed 50/50 laps)
7. Marco Andretti (Started 6th; completed 50/50 laps)
8. Brian Brown (Started 8th; completed 50/50 laps)
9. Scott Bloomquist (Started 4th; completed 50/50 laps)
10. Willy T. Ribbs (Started 12th; completed 50/50 laps)
11. Bill Elliott (Started 5th; completed 39/50 laps)
12. Paul Tracy (Started 11th; completed 4/50 laps)
Camping World SRX Series Championship Standings (after Round 2 of 6):
1. Tony Stewart (82 points)
2. Ernie Francis Jr. (71 points, -11)
3. Helio Castroneves (58 points, -24)
4. Bobby Labonte (55 points, -27)
5. Michael Waltrip (45 points, -37)
6. Marco Andretti (41 points, -41)
7. Bill Elliott (33 points, -49)
8. Paul Tracy (27 points, -55)
9. Tony Kanaan (26 points, -56)
10. Willy T. Ribbs (25 points, -57)
Note: Points are awarded in both heats and the feature. In each heat, the winner receives a maximum of 12 points. Second place earns 11 points with every position in descending order receiving one fewer point, with the 12th-place finisher earning one point. Points increase in the feature, with the winner receiving 25 points, second place 22 points, third place 20 points, fourth place 18 points, fifth place 16 points, sixth place 14 points, seventh place 12 points, eighth place 10 points, ninth place eight points, 10th place six points, 11th place four points and 12th place two points.
About Camping World SRX Series
The Camping World SRX Series was created by a team consisting of Sandy Montag and The Montag Group, George Pyne, NASCAR Hall of Fame crew chief and team owner Ray Evernham, and legendary driver Tony Stewart. The Montag Group leads business operations and Evernham oversees all racing operations. Pyne is a member of the Board and serves as an advisor. For more information, please visit www.SRXracing.com.