by Jacob Hord @HordRaceWatcher
For the first time in Eldora Speedway history, and the third time in SRX history, the Superstar Racing Experience hit the track on a typical hot, June day. Superstars from NASCAR, Indy Car, Trans-Am, dirt, and everything in between went against each other for bragging rights and a chance to be the inaugural SRX Champion.
The first heat race lineup was determined by random draw, and after fifteen minutes of action and hard racing, Tony Stewart found himself on top, but that would put him at the tail of heat two due to the full field invert. Marco Andretti took full advantage of the invert and put himself at the front of the field when the checkers flew on heat two. Stewart had the best average finish of the two heats and that would be good enough to put himself on pole of the 50 lap feature.
That’s where the drama really ramped up. Stewart decided to start at the rear of the field to make things interesting. That put Paul Tracy on the pole. Tracy went and claimed the early lead over Helio Castroneves and Scott Speed. Tracy held a solid lead while Kody Swanson, who was in a backup car after heat race incidents, was charging forward. Swanson was running a groove higher than anyone else in the early stages of the race, and he was gaining positions in that manner.
The first caution came out on lap 15. On the restart, Tracy and Castroneves made contact, they both held on and Scott Speed challenged for the runner up spot after going three wide. Meanwhile, Stewart used that restart to his advantage and was up to fourth, while Swanson really started to move, challenging Stewart for fourth.
Swanson moved to the low side, and found a tremendous amount of speed. He got into third before a caution flew with 27 laps to go. This restart was a wild one. Swanson claimed second from Speed, and set his sight on the leader Tracy. It didn’t take long for Swanson to get the lead, that bottom side was the place to be. Swanson cleared Tracy by four to five car-lengths as Speed challenged Tracy for second.
Swanson’s lead was wiped out by a caution with 17 laps remaining. On the ensuing restart, Tracy got the jump on Swanson for the lead, but just a couple laps later, Swanson retook the lead and started to grow it. This is when Smoke entered the chat. Stewart made his way into second in the closing stages of the race. A late caution with eight laps left put Swanson and Stewart side-by-side on the restart. After three side-by-side laps, Stewart held a slight edge over Swanson as the final caution came out with five laps to go.
Swanson and Smoke raced hard to the finish, but Smoke was just too good for Swanson. Smoke picked up his second SRX win in a row over Swanson and Castroneves who rounded out the podium. It was a win on his own track for Stewart, much to the crowd’s delight.
USAC Silver Crown Feature: Up next were the USAC Silver Crown cars for their 50 lap feature. CJ Leary was fastest in qualifying, which put him on the pole of the feature race next to Tyler Courtney. Courtney, the All Star points leader and fresh off his Ohio Speedweek Championship, got the jump on Leary and rocketed out to the lead.
That’s about all that happened for Courtney. He led all 50 laps enroute to another USAC win by 7.986 seconds over Chris Windom and that Kody Swanson guy. This was Courtney’s second USAC win at Eldora this year, with a previous Sprint Car win in May at #LetsRaceTwo.
It was business as usual for Courtney: “I love this place. I had a really good racecar that I tried to destroy in practice, but we got it put back together. We didn’t get quicktime; I felt like we could have, but I just didn’t go hard enough there. Once I got the lead, I got to manage my own race, listen to my spotter and our lead just kept growing, so I didn’t run any harder or any softer and just rode wherever I was. Anytime I tried to push harder, I just ended up in the fence. It was an awesome night. I love getting to race at Eldora, especially in a Silver Crown Car.”
When asked about his winning ways at Eldora, Courtney had this to say: “I don’t know, it just started coming to me a couple years ago. I got comfortable running the fence and that’s what you have to do to be good here. I think I’m able to carry a lot of momentum, especially now coming from running the winged car– I have to run straighter. It just kind of fits what I do, and I’m glad it does, because this place is badass.”
Check back to OhioDirt.com later for more from the SRX and Silver Crown races at Eldora, featuring quotes from Bill Elliot, Keith Kunz, and Kody Swanson.