Tony Stewart finished 17th Thursday night in the season-opening Arctic Cat All-Star Circuit of Champions sprint car series race at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Florida.
The race marked the first of what Stewart has said would be about 80 races he’ll run this year since he’s no longer driving in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He’s not released a full schedule and had not announced where he’d make his return. A team spokesperson confirmed to NBC Sports that Stewart is scheduled to race with the series Friday and Saturday at Bubba Raceway Park.
Stewart explained last month his reasoning for being coy about his schedule.
“I think we’re just going to drop in for a while now,” Stewart said. “I like it on the nights that fans know we’re going because we get to see fans passionate about what we did on the Cup side, but at the same time, it makes it more hectic in the pit area to do our job, and right now, I just want to get back to driving the race cars again.
“We need to keep it simple for a while before we let everyone know where we’re going.”
Stewart started on the pole in his heat race and finished sixth Thursday. He started second and finished second in the B feature, advancing to the A feature. He started 20th in that race.
Stewart’s teammate, Donny Schatz won the A feature.
Stewart, who owns the series for 410 winged sprint cars, wasn’t the only driver with NASCAR experience in the event. Rico Abreu, who competed in the Camping World Truck Series last year, was 11th.
The race also marked the first time Stewart has competed in a sprint car since August 9, 2014, when his car struck Kevin Ward Jr. during an Empire Super Sprint Series race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park. Ward died from the injuries he suffered. Stewart was cleared of any wrongdoing by a grand jury, but a lawsuit brought by Ward’s family remains in the court system. A mediation deadline was recently extended to April 21.
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NASCAR handed out two crew chief suspensions in the Cup this week following the race weekend in Phoenix while another was upheld on appeal.
Brad Keselowski‘s crew chief, Paul Wolfe, was suspended three races and the team was docked 35 driver and owners points for failing weights and measurements in post-race inspection.
Kevin Harvick‘s crew chief, Rodney Childers, was suspended one race and the team docked 10 driver and owner points for an unapproved track bar slider assembly.
The penalties for AJ Allmendinger‘s team, including the suspension of crew chief Randall Burnett, was upheld after an appeal.
The NASCAR America crew debates which team is hurt the most by their penalties.
We now have two positive reviews of the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.
Following AJ Allmendinger‘s comments back in January, IndyCar legend Mario Andretti has shared his thoughts on the 2.4-mile circuit that will likely host a NASCAR Cup race in fall 2018.
As a guest of the track and the NASCAR Racing Experience, the 77-year-old driver piloted two cars – a 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid and a 2017 Cadillac CTS-V. Andretti maxed out at 177 mph in the Porsche.
“It’s very difficult sometimes to really create a road course where you can ‘stretch your legs’ inside an oval,” Andretti said in a press release. “From that standpoint, I think they did a good job by giving it rhythm by putting some banking to the hairpin corners – which obviously invites some overtaking. It’s wide enough that you can choose a line. You’re not really trapped. … It’s got a multiple-line (groove) that you can choose from, depending on the capability of the car.”
The “roval” circuit would use most of the 1.5-mile oval NASCAR already competes on.
Allmendinger took part in a data test on the road course in mid-January and later said it “was a lot of fun.”
Earlier this month, Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Marcus Smith said the track “learned a lot” from the test.
“We have done a lot to engineer a world-class road course that would include the ‘roval,'” Smith told NBC Sports, adding that “several truckloads of crash walls and catchfence” were being transported in for installation.
The Cup Series has two road courses on it schedule, at Sonoma Raceway in California and Watkins Glen International in New York.
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The drivers of the Furniture Row Racing hauler carrying Erik Jones’ No. 77 Toyota were uninjured Thursday in a hit-and-run accident 15 miles north of Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Travis Watts, who was behind the wheel, and David Shano were traveling from Phoenix Raceway to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, when their tractor-trailer rig was struck shortly after midnight on Interstate 15, according to a team release. The team said a car carrying two occupants pulled off the shoulder and back onto the highway directly in front of the truck, causing front-end damage to the tractor.
The team said there was no damage to the trailer or its interior, which was carrying Jones’ cars.
“We’re all very relieved no one was injured in the incident,” team president Joe Garone said. “There was substantial damage to the tractor, but everything in the trailer was checked out thoroughly and is OK. We’ve rented a tractor and the No. 77 hauler is on schedule to arrive at Auto Club Speedway later (Thursday).”
The team rented a replacement tractor at a Rush Truck Centers in North Las Vegas.
According to the team, the Nevada Highway Patrol apprehended and arrested the occupants of the car. The team is working to supply police with a video dash cam from the No. 77 tractor.
Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs for 90 minutes beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and previews this weekend’s action at Auto Club Speedway.
Krista Voda hosts with Parker Kligerman from Stamford, Connecticut. Dale Jarrett joins them from Burton’s Garage.
On today’s show:
- My Home Track: 50 States in 50 Shows continues as we visit Central Arizona Speedway in Casa Grande. We’ll also discuss some fun facts about the Grand Canyon State.
- 2014 Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick has been on a roller coaster ride through four races this season. Now, he heads home to California where he looks to grab his first win of the season. We’ll take a trip to Harvick’s hometown of Bakersfield and examine his Racing Roots.
- Kligerman jumps in the simulator to see what challenges the drivers will face this weekend in Fontana.
If you can’t catch the show on TV, you also can watch it via the online stream at http://nascarstream.nbcsports.com
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Click here at 5:30 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.