Tony Stewart returned to the winner’s circle Saturday night, capturing the United Sprint Car Series Spring Speed Xplosion finale at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Florida.
Stewart retired from full-time NASCAR competition after the 2016 season with a goal of returning to running several dozen sprint car races this season, but the three-time Cup champion had struggled in his return to grassroots racing.
“This is our eighth night this year we’ve run, and the first seven we haven’t been very stellar,” Stewart said. “But it’s just been a while since I’ve been in a car. we’ve been fighting trying to figure out what these tires want. The setup we ran here the last time doesn’t work anymore.
“We’ve run seven races and haven’t gotten close to where it feels right. Tonight we hit on something in the heat race and started 10th in the main, about 10 laps into it, started finding some stuff that was working.”
It was Stewart’s first career win on the USCS Outlaw Thunder Tour. He took the lead from Danny Martin Jr. on the 19th lap and held on to the checkered flag, beating a field of 27 drivers. The race distance was 33 laps in honor of veteran sprint car driver Dave Steele, who died in a crash last week.
Stewart headed to Martinsville Speedway late last night to attend Sunday’s Cup race in support of his four Stewart-Haas Racing Fords.
“I get the best of both worlds now,” he said. “I still am a car owner on the Cup side, but this weekend, we were here Friday and Saturday night, and as soon as I get done with this interview, I’m changing clothes and flying to Martinsville late tonight.
“My schedule is actually busier now than what it was when I was running the Cup side, but I get the best of both worlds. I get to do the NASCAR side and still get to do what I love to do running the dirt cars again.”