BEAVER DAM, WI – After two years of going from one team to another with frustrating results, Shane Stewart was ready to quit Sprint Car racing. This year, he’s having fun again; even with an uncertain future.
The Bixby, OK driver currently sits fifth in the championship points after the first eight World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series races with three top-five finishes and five top-10s. He’s done so with two teams, as well.
He lost his ride with CJB Motorsports at the end of 2019 but was able to get in a second Sides Motorsports entry for the three season opening races at Volusia Speedway Park. Plans to run a Roth Motorsports car during the spring California swing were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, when racing resumed, Stewart found another new home back in Bernie Stuebgen’s Indy Race Parts #71 – which he’ll drive during the World of Outlaws’ return to Beaver Dam Raceway June 5-6.
“I drove the 71 several years back and had a little bit of success with Bernie and Betsy (Stuebgen),” said Stewart, who finished second at Lawrenceburg Speedway in the #71 in 2013. “I’ve seen the guys drive it after I did, and they’ve all been really fast in this car. So, when the opportunity came my way to jump in it and run a few races I was pretty excited to do that.”
Stewart finished 16th at Knoxville Raceway in his first race with the team this year. While it wasn’t the result they hoped for, Stewart said they learned what changes needed to be made. Since then, he’s finished fourth, sixth, fourth and fourth.
“I think our car has been pretty quick the last few races, but I also feel like I’ve qualified in the right spot, too,” Stewart said. “That’s been important lately. I still feel like our car has been competitive during Feature times, as well. We’re having fun. This is a small race team. Not a lot of money behind it. But what [Stuebgen] does have is competitive stuff. His motors run good with Charlie Garrett. Bernie has a pretty good inside on how to make these Maxim cars work. Having a good time.”
Aside from picking up the win at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, 2019 didn’t go as planned for Stewart. After an up and down season, he found out in September he wouldn’t be returning to CJB in 2020. Not long after he had to take on crew chief duties when crew chief Barry Jackson moved over to working with Kerry Madsen. This year has been a welcomed reset for him.
His “off season” of racing, and winning, in Australia helped put him on a path to regaining confidence and enjoying racing again.
“Anytime you can win, it always builds your confidence,” Stewart said. “The group of guys I was racing with in Australia, they’re not Outlaw caliber teams or drivers. But it was still a win, which helps.
“I knew that I hadn’t forgot how to drive. You just have to get yourself in a situation where the people around you believe in you.”
He believes he has that with Stuebgen and his team, he added. Their performance is proof.
That support provides an extra boost of confidence going into each race, especially when Stewart has been successful there before; like at Beaver Dam Raceway. He won at the 1/3-mile track in 2017 and finished fourth there last year. The previous two tracks on the schedule were also 1/3-mile tracks, further giving Stewart confidence in what the #71 car could do at Beaver Dam.
While he’d like to run the full season with the World of Outlaws, it’s unclear if he’ll be able to in the #71. Stuebgen still has his business to take care of and when he’s not there, it’s not making money, Stewart said. For now, their plan is to run the doubleheader weekend at Beaver Dam Raceway and the Brownells Big Guns Bash doubleheader at Knoxville Raceway June 12-13. Then, they’ll evaluate the situation from there and see where the Series schedule goes.
“Obviously, Bernie has to pay attention to the schedule and not miss too many days of work,” Stewart said. “We’d love to continue to race with you guys and that’s our plan.”
THIS WEEK AT A GLANCE
WHEN & WHERE
Friday, June 5 and Saturday, June 6 at Beaver Dam Raceway in Beaver Dam, WI, on DIRTVision. Hot Laps at 6 p.m. (CT)/7 p.m. (ET) and racing at 7:30 p.m. (CT)/8:30 p.m. (ET).
ABOUT THE TRACK
Beaver Dam Raceway is a semi-banked 1/3-mile track.
Track Record – 11.275 sec. set by Daryn Pittman on July 10, 2001
Online – WisMotorsports.net