Shane Stewart did his part to keep his Lucas Oil Sprint Car Series presented by K&N Filters title hopes alive by charging to victory lane in Saturday night's 30-lap feature at Lucas Oil Speedway.
Stewart battled past Gary Wright in the early stages of the main event and then rode a perilously razor-thin cushion over the final circuits to take home the $6,000 winner's share in his first visit to the "Diamond of Dirt Tracks".
"This place is incredible, there's nothing else like it," the Bixby, OK, native commented in victory lane. "It's not a real surprise though, Lucas Oil is doing so much for this series and this sport that you know everything they do is gonna be first class."
After drawing a 69 out of the possible 72 pills, Stewart rallied from the tail of his heat race and into the lead in just six circuits to rank as the night's top passing point earner and earn a spot in the redraw, where he landed an inside second row starting berth.
With four-time series champion Gary Wright of Hooks, TX, leading the way to the green flag from the pole position with Ohio's Darren Long alongside, it was "The Texan" gunning into the lead at the outset with Stewart battling past Long for second on the third round.
Stewart reeled Wright in and slid across turns one and two on the fifth round to move out front, albeit briefly as Wright returned the favor in turns three and four.
Stewart repeated the move the next time around in Paul Silva's Wesmar-powered ProBilt Construction/Palmero Properties No. 57 A.R.T., making it stick in turns three and four after racing wheel-to-wheel down the backstretch.
In just another three laps, Stewart was into traffic, where he juked and jived his way through backmarkers seemingly at will over the next dozen circuits until a caution flew on the 20th round for Josh Fisher, who spun to a halt in turn two after contact from Kerry Madsen.
While Stewart was slicing and dicing through traffic, sixth-starter Jason Johnson battled past Brian Brown for third and then overtook Wright for second by the 15th round. But, when the caution finally appeared, Stewart had five lapped cars between himself and the current series points leader.
Johnson disposed of all but two by the time the yellow lights flickered again four laps later when eighth-runner Mark Shirshekan coasted to a stop in turn two with terminal problems.
Stewart raced away as action resumed and held just over a half straightaway lead by the time Johnson had freed himself of lapped traffic.
Stewart kept it interesting, pushing the limits of a receding cushion in turn two over the final rounds and nearly collecting the wall exiting turn four at one time.
"The track was really racy tonight, it was getting to be a long way around the top at the end though, I'm not sure how many more laps we could have done that," Stewart commented after his third series score of the year and 18th of his career.
Johnson held on to a 22-point lead over Stewart in the series $60,000 championship points chase with a runner-up finish aboard Lanny Row's The Shop Motorsports No. 41 Eagle, with Brown claiming the show position aboard the Ostrich-powered Super Clean No. 21 Maxim.
Wright crossed the stripe fourth in Scott Brown's ASI-powered Lubbock Wrecker Service No. 9x Maxim, with Danny Wood rounding out the top five in the H&H Enterprises No. 94 Maxim.
Subbing for injured Ricky Logan, Kerry Madsen brought the Lucas Oil No. 10a entry to life with a last-lap pass of Dustin Morgan to win the night's first "B" Main and then charged from 17th to sixth in the feature event.
Travis Rilat advanced a handful of positions to claim seventh, with Paul McMahan close behind in eighth. Jesse Hockett survived several close calls to cross the stripe in ninth, with Jack Dover climbing from 16th to complete the top ten.
Wright, Stewart, McMahan, Brown, Johnson, Wood and Rilat topped heat race action for the 59-car field, with Logan, Don Droud, Jr., and Brady Bacon winning the "B" Mains.
Forrest Sutherland flipped in turn two in the third heat, while Kyle Carpenter and Steven Cross flipped in tandem in turn four in the seventh heat. There were no injuries.
After breaking a suspected camshaft on the opening lap of his heat race, Tim Crawley fell one spot shy of a transfer in his "B" Main and used his first provisional of the year, racing from 23rd to 13th. Tony Bruce, Jr., used a provisional as well after also falling one spot short in "B" Main action, following Crawley with a drive from 24th to 14th.
Lucas Oil Sprint Car Series presented by K&N Filters, Lucas Oil Speedway – Wheatland, MO
Heat Races (Top 16 in Passing Points to "A" Main; Balance to 3 "B" Mains):
Heat One (10 Laps): 1. 9x-Gary Wright, 2. 14k-Kyle Bellm, 3. 88k-J. Kinder, 4. 21T-Eric Todd, 5. 93-Dustin Morgan, 6. 28-Jonathan Cornell, 7. 99jr-Justin Henderson, 8. 99d-Rickey Hood, 9. 11c-Dakota Carroll.
Heat Two (10 Laps): 1. 57-Shane Stewart, 2. 87-Brian McClelland, 3. 86x-Don Droud, Jr., 4. 23-Seth Bergman, 5. 3p-Rusty Potter, 6. 75-Tyler Blank, 7. 2d-Jeff Lowery, 8. 88-Tim Crawley. DNS: 24L-Lanny Carpenter.
Heat Three (10 Laps): 1. 3d-Paul McMahan, 2. 86-Josh Fisher, 3. 2-Kenneth Walker, 4. 29r-Rusty Quick, 5. 18w-Chris Walker, 6. 04-Brad Graham, 7. 76-Jay Russell, 8. 81au-Gavin Punch, 9. 85s-Forrest Sutherland.
Heat Four (10 Laps): 1. 21-Brian Brown, 2. 53-Jack Dover, 3. 1-Sean McClelland, 4. 34-Josh Padellford, 5. 11-Chad Corken, 6. 43-Frank Brown, 7. 50z-Zach Chappell. DNS: 2a-Randy Hibbs.
Heat Five (10 Laps): 1. 41-Jason Johnson, 2. 99-Brady Bacon, 3. 14-Randy Martin, 4. 18-Tony Bruce, Jr., 5. 8h-Joey Moughan, 6. 165-Haley Arnold, 7. 4-Jon Corbin. DNS: 9c-Tony Crank.
Heat Six (10 Laps): 1. 94-Danny Wood, 2. 3-Mark Shirshekan, 3. 97-Aaron Berryhill, 4. 10a-Kerry Madsen, 5. 72-Curtis Boyer, 6. 18v-Tim Newman, 7. 1x-Brad Ryun. DNS: 8w-Jordan Whitehead.
Heat Seven (10 Laps): 1. 29-Travis Rilat, 2. 13-Jesse Hockett, 3. 7-Darren Long, 4. 48-David Brown, 5. 3z-Zach Davis, 6. 33-Austin Alumbaugh, 7. 19s-Steven Cross, 8. 17-Kyle Carpenter.
"B" Mains (Top 2 From Each Advance to "A" Main):
First "B" Feature (12 Laps): 1. 10a-Kerry Madsen, 2. 93-Dustin Morgan, 3. 18-Tony Bruce, Jr., 4. 88k-J. Kinder, 5. 28-Jonathan Cornell, 6. 50z-Zach Chappell, 7. 99d-Rickey Hood, 8. 29r-Rusty Quick, 9. 75-Tyler Blank, 10. 8w-Jordan Whitehead, 11. 18v-Tim Newman, 12. 3z-Zach Davis. DNS: 4-Jon Corbin, 85s-Forrest Sutherland, 24L-Lanny Carpenter.
Second "B" Feature (12 Laps): 1. 86x-Don Droud, Jr., 2. 2-Kenneth Walker, 3. 23-Seth Bergman, 4. 99jr-Justin Henderson, 5. 34-Josh Padellford, 6. 3p-Rusty Potter, 7. 81au-Gavin Punch, 8. 2d-Jeff Lowery, 9. 48-David Brown, 10. 04-Brad Graham. DNS: 18w-Chris Walker, 33-Austin Alumbaugh, 17-Kyle Carpenter, 2a-Randy Hibbs.
Third "B" Feature (12 Laps): 1. 99-Brady Bacon, 2. 1-Sean McClelland, 3. 88-Tim Crawley, 4. 21T-Eric Todd, 5. 11-Chad Corken, 6. 72-Curtis Boyer, 7. 76-Jay Russell, 8. 43-Frank Brown, 9. 9c-Tony Crank, 10. 11c-Dakota Carroll, 11. 165-Haley Arnold, 12. 1x-Brad Ryun, 13. 8h-Joey Moughan. DNS: 19s-Steven Cross.
Lucas Oil Sprint Car Series Lucas Oil Speedway Main Event:
“A” Feature (30 Laps): 1. 57-Shane Stewart, 2. 41-Jason Johnson, 3. 21-Brian Brown, 4. 9x-Gary Wright, 5. 94-Danny Wood, 6. 10a-Kerry Madsen, 7. 29-Travis Rilat, 8. 3d-Paul McMahan, 9. 13-Jesse Hockett, 10. 53-Jack Dover, 11. 86-Josh Fisher, 12. 99-Brady Bacon, 13. 88-Tim Crawley, 14. 18-Tony Bruce, Jr., 15. 1-Sean McClelland, 16. 7-Darren Long, 17. 86x-Don Droud, Jr., 18. 93-Dustin Morgan, 19. 14k-Kyle Bellm, 20. 18w-Chris Walker, 21. 87-Brian McClelland, 22. 14-Randy Martin, 23. 3-Mark Shirshekan, 24. 97-Aaron Berryhill, 25. 2-Kenneth Walker (DNS).
Lap Leaders: Gary Wright 1-5, Shane Stewart 6-30.
Note: Tim Crawley and Tony Bruce, Jr., utilized Lucas Oil provisionals to start the "A" Main, while Chris Walker utilized a Winged Outlaw Warriors provisional to start the "A" Main.
Lucas Oil Sprint Car Presented by K&N Filters Points (Top Twenty): 1. Jason Johnson 2010, 2. Shane Stewart 1,988, 3. Gary Wright 1,942, 4. Travis Rilat 1,861, 5. Tim Crawley 1,823, 6. Paul McMahan 1,812, 7. Tony Bruce, Jr. 1,799, 8. Danny Wood 1,758, 9. Jack Dover 1,747, 10. Jesse Hockett 1,693, 11. Sean McClelland 1,544, 12. Kenneth Walker 1,382, 13. Gary Taylor 1,321, 14. Darren Long 1,311, 15. Chad Corken 1,280, 16. Seth Bergman 1,247, 17. Gavin Punch 1,194, 18. Brady Bacon 1,008, 19. Wayne Johnson 907, 20. Nick Smith 870.