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Stewart Dishes The Dirt

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 10 2010

Tony Stewart talked dirt racing at Chicagoland Speedway. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Joliet, Ill. – Tony Stewart is not just a Sprint Cup driver and a NASCAR team owner. He is also a track owner and sprint car-team owner.

Stewart owns what is perhaps the best dirt track in the country – Eldora Speedway in Ohio.

A couple of his World of Outlaws drivers – champion Donny Schatz and legendary Steve Kinser – are regular winners in the series.

During a break from NASCAR action Friday at Chicagoland Speedway, Stewart took some time to answer some questions about his “other” careers.

Question: What is it like at Eldora and the Kings Royal (sprint car race) right now?

Stewart: “It’s pretty cool. We didn’t really see, two years ago we didn’t see a big drop off, but this year we’ve seen a little of the affects of it with the bigger races. We’ve lost some cars and the car count. Not as drastic as I thought it was going to be so I’ve been pleasantly surprised from that aspect.

“You sit there and you drive through the campgrounds and you talk to the fans and you realize that they’re having to cut corners and it’s affecting the Saturday night people just as much as the NASCAR crowd. Hopefully we’re getting on the back side of it and getting through it, but I know we went to Sharon (Speedway) Wednesday and ran at Dave Blaney’s place there.

“Kasey (Kahne) and I were going to run 360 cars at Eldora next weekend and Dave is actually going to run the King’s Royal so that’s pretty cool that he’s back in a 410.  That’s where he made his name so it’s going to be cool to see him get back in one and run at Eldora again.”

Question: What did short track racing do for your and your career and how important is it to keep those kind of tracks open?

Stewart: “It’s very important.  Nobody gets to this level and just starts here.  There’s nobody that says, all right I’m going to be a NASCAR driver and gets a NASCAR license and starts racing.  They all had to start at a short track somewhere and work their way up.  It’s a shame across the country to watch tracks go by and some of them have gone away because the economics and some of them have gone away because housing developments a mile away from it are built and a race track has been there for 50 years and all of the sudden people complain about the noise at the race track and get it shut down.

“That’s probably the one thing, being a short track promoter, frustrates me the most.  If you’re going to buy a house, you ought to at least check and see where you’re buying it and if there’s a place that’s been around there for 50 years, don’t complain about the noise.  They were there long before these people moved in.  It is, it’s important because if we lose that, we lose the feeder system to get to this level.  It’s how all these guys got their start and it’s how all these guys got the skills to be the drivers they are now.”

Question: How big was it for you to add Steve Kinser to your Outlaws team?

Stewart: It makes me feel like Roger Penske on the IndyCar side and Chip Ganassi on the road race side and Rick Hendrick on the Cup side.  I feel like we’ve got the two most sought after guys that you could ask for.  We are second and fourth in the points right now.  It’s pretty cool to have a guy that’s won 20 Outlaw championships and 14 Knoxville Nationals and however many races he’s won there, driving your car.  We have two of the best guys in the series and it’s neat to watch them run with each other, but there’s some nights where I see what it’s like to be a multi-car owner.

“You sit on the trailer and watch your cars about run over the top of each other and you sit there and you just grab your head like I can’t believe this is going to happen.  It’s fun and it’s fun to have somebody of Steve’s (Kinser) caliber and Donny’s (Schatz) driving our cars.  He had his back surgery last fall and you can see a lot of new energy in him this year that we haven’t seen in a while.  I don’t think he really realized how bad he was feeling because of his back until he had it operated on in the fall.  It’s like you see a new Steve this year.  He’s got a lot of energy and he’s winning a lot of races again.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 10 2010
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