Short Track

#Winter Heat: Shane Stewart Reigns In A Victory At Winter Heat

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There is this old saying that goes something like this; “don’t mess with Mother Nature”.  Well “Mother Nature” was messing with us in Yuma this week!  She made her own plans for the Tuesday evening race during the 2nd annual Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown.

The weather patterns that have been pestering the West Coast postponed the third round of the five-race series at Cocopah Speedway one day until Wednesday.  If that wasn’t enough, a couple of brief showers in the middle of the program caused concern that the race would not be completed, but that little bit of moisture resulted in an ultra-fast surface for the 43 competitors who battled for the $5,000 top prize on the nights fast, tacky race track.

While Kyle Larson had thoroughly dominated the field over the first 25 laps, he hit a rut in turn number 2, temporarily he had to get out of the gas, and then watched his employee, Shane Stewart, snatch the lead from him.  From that point to the checkered flag Shane Stewart had the field covered, stole the victory from Larson, and added his name to the Winter Heat record book!

“I’m just glad Mother Nature cooperated a little bit,” said Stewart, who won by more than seven seconds and lapped up to eighth place. “I’m very happy we were able to get the race in. It’s always a pleasure racing Kyle. He’s so darn good that he’s almost like racing Donny (Schatz) honestly. He sets such a strong pace.

“Everything worked out good for me. Sometimes it’s not always good to be leading. When he dropped down there and hit that hole I had a pretty good run on him and when he got sideways we were able to sneak by.”

The pass was the peak of a wild feature, which began with Larson quickly powering into the lead from his pole position. While Stewart was able to remain within striking distance, Larson hit traffic on Lap 4 and had lapped up to 14th place before the first caution of the race on Lap 12 for Terry McCarl.

Stewart, who restarted with two lapped cars between him and Larson, got by one lapped car before the second-and-final caution on Lap 14 for Seth Bergman.

Stewart quickly maneuvered by the lapped car and slowly reeled Larson back in. The duo entered traffic on Lap 20 and Stewart nearly crashed in turn two on the ensuing lap. However, he saved his car and position before once again closing the gap on Larson.

Meanwhile, traffic was thick and most of the lapped cars remained on the bottom groove, which forced Larson to run the tricky cushion several lanes up the track. Larson hit a hole and bobbled exiting turn two with six laps remaining and Stewart was there to capitalize.

While Stewart zipped around him and took the lead, Larson spun completely sideways and came down the track toward the infield as his fellow competitors dodged him at more than 100 miles per hour.

“Thankfully we still finished second,” he said. “I all but spun out or turned over off (turn) two there. I was pointed at the field and could see Tasker Phillips coming at me. I must have missed him by a foot. (I’m) just disappointed, but glad I didn’t get hit there.”

Larson held on to the runner-up position, which propelled him into the lead of the Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown championship standings.

Meanwhile, Jason Solwold put together another consistent night. He finished third – more than seven seconds behind Larson and 14 behind Stewart – to advance to second in the event standings.

“We kind of set up to run the bottom,” Solwold said. “We were a little too snug to run the top. Those guys kinda got checked out there. We got into lapped traffic and I was just about the same speed as everyone else was in dirty air. All in all, we had a pretty good night.”

Daryn Pittman recorded a fourth-place result with D.J. Netto placing fifth.

Craig Dollansky ended sixth, Aaron Reutzel seventh, Joey Saldana eighth, Bryan Clauson ninth and Greg Hodnett rounded out the top 10.

Larson, Logan Forler, McCarl, Steve Kinser and Rico Abreu each won a heat race with Stewart, Dollansky, Bergman, Sam Hafertepe Jr. and Austin McCarl each claiming a qualifier. Dale Blaney and Ryan Smith scored B Main victories.

Racing resumes for the final two nights of racing on Friday night.

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About Leon Hammack

Leon Hammack is a retired airline pilot and avid race fan. Leon is a contributing writer and photographer for all three of NASCAR's touring series, as well as sprint car and midget racing. A native of Fresno, CA now wintering in Yuma, AZ., additionally, he spends the summer months near Coos Bay, OR. You may contact Leon on Twitter @captainblowdri

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