SRX season ends with a close title fight, Cup champs’ duel for the win
HARTFORD, OHIO — A chaotic night of racing at Sharon Speedway closed out the Superstar Racing Experience’s second season with Chase Elliott as the main event winner and Marco Andretti as the champion.
Elliott held off Tony Stewart for the win in the main event, originally scheduled for 70 green-flag laps but shortened to 48 laps due to a time limit. Stewart ripped the top to get to Elliott but then swapped lanes a couple of times in the closing laps before Elliott finally secured the lead on a restart with two laps to go.
Elliott and Stewart bested Matt Kenseth, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Bobby Labonte, Greg Biffle, Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman, Marco Andretti, Paul Tracy, Tony Kanaan, Dave Blaney and Michael Waltrip in the main event.
“To sit there and race on dirt with one of my heroes in Tony Stewart and throw a couple of sliders with him, obviously this is a little different than the open wheel stuff, but knowing how good he is at this stuff and being able to dice it up and race with him,” Elliott said. “I actually thought he was better than me the run before and then I was able to watch him on the top and finally get a couple of things going there.”
“It was really fun at the end of this race tonight to run with Chase like that,” Tony Stewart said. “Chase has been running midgets and ran a Sprint Car race on dirt, which makes my heart happy because that’s where my heart is, is dirt track racing, so to see him get a chance to come back and do that and see that he wants to learn that and get good at that is something that makes me proud.”
Stewart fought hard for the lead as he was one of five drivers who entered Saturday night in mathematical contention for the championship:
- Marco Andretti: 170 points
- Ryan Newman 162 (-8)
- Tony Stewart 157 (-13)
- Bobby Labonte 155 (-15)
- Greg Biffle 130 (-40)
Newman won the first heat while Andretti, Labonte, Stewart and Biffle finished 3rd, 4th, 8th and 9th, which mathematically eliminated Biffle and helped Labonte move ahead of Stewart:
- Marco Andretti: 180 points
- Ryan Newman 174 (-6)
- Bobby Labonte 164 (-16)
- Tony Stewart 162 (-18)
In the second heat, Labonte finished 3rd and Newman finished 4th while Andretti and Stewart finished 6th and 9th, respectively:
- Marco Andretti: 187 points
- Ryan Newman 183 (-4)
- Bobby Labonte 174 (-13)
- Tony Stewart 166 (-21)
Under this scenario, Newman needed to win the main event or finish at least two spots better than Andretti to win the title. For Labonte to win the title, he needed to beat Newman by 5 spots and Andretti by 7 – or have Newman finish 6th or worse and Andretti finish 7th or worse if he won the main event.
For Stewart to win it all, he needed to win the main event and have Labonte finish 5th or worse, Newman finish 9th or worse and Andretti finish 11th or worse.
Newman started the main event on the pole but then lost the lead to Chase Elliott, who started fourth. After getting passed, Newman maintained second, two spots ahead of Andretti and in a position to win the championship until a Lap 30 caution for Dave Blaney’s flat right-front tire changed everything.
The caution led to a debris caution on Lap 32, which set up a restart where Newman and Elliott restarted on the front row with Andretti behind Newman.
Entering turn one, Andretti dive-bombed the corner and spun Newman, which caused damage to each car that took them out of contention for the win. Andretti went behind the wall and had the right-front fender bare-bonded but the team eventually cut the fender off after sustaining more damage in another wreck with Ryan Newman.
While Newman and Andretti went through chaos just to finish the race, Bobby Labonte briefly played his hand with the championship lead until Tony Stewart fought up front and led the points at one time as he attempted a Hail Mary for the championship.
Andretti and Newman’s second wreck set up a restart with two laps to go – one last attempt for Stewart. However, for he and Bobby Labonte, it came up short – Stewart finished 2nd, Labonte finished 5th, Newman finished 8th and Marco Andretti finished 9th to clinch the SRX championship by two points.
CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS SCORING QUESTIONS
While Andretti claimed the championship by two points, concern was expressed about the points he received during the second heat at Five Flags Speedway. Andretti received six points for a 10th-place finish that usually awards three points under SRX’s points system.
As it was explained, Andretti was set to start ninth in the second heat at Five Flags when he was ordered to pit road before the heat. When Andretti exited pit road, he lined up 12th for the heat – three positions behind his earned starting position. He then finished 10th in the heat.
Later that night, SRX awarded three more points to Andretti as a way to make up for their call that affected his finishing position in the heat and his starting position in the main event.
FINAL CHAMPIONSHIP TOP FOUR
- Marco Andretti: 195 points
- Ryan Newman: 193, -2
- Bobby Labonte: 190, -5
- Tony Stewart: 188, -7
COMMENTS FROM THE TOP FOUR
Champion Marco Andretti: “The cool thing about this is you get damage, you can still play and stay on the lead lap. I broke my wrist in that last incident, got my thumb caught in the wheel, so painful last couple of laps, but I just wanted to cover and finish right where I needed to finish, and we were able to do that. This thing was pretty robust tonight.”
Ryan Newman: “Obviously, the outcome is not what we wanted, but to be second in the championship with some of the greatest drivers in the world is still pretty special. It wasn’t the end result that we wanted, but we did get an amazing result in Stafford and to have my daughters there in victory lane was so special for me and something that I will always remember. Happy to be a part of it and excited to hopefully get a chance to do it again.”
Bobby Labonte: “The race tonight, I thought we had a good start. Really the only thing I screwed up was on a restart I spun the right rear tire and lost two spots and then was done after that. I couldn’t get back around anybody.
My wife and I have been road-tripping on this whole thing, and we’ve had a lot of fun along the way. We call it our summer fun and we enjoyed it. Can’t thank everybody enough for doing it and it’s hard to race against these guys because they are so good, but we were able to have a good one.”
Tony Stewart: “I wasn’t very good in the heat races and I tried everything I’ve learned my entire life on dirt and pavement and a combination of both and couldn’t get going and couldn’t get enough points to get a good starting spot. Started ninth and worked out way up to fifth and then they had a little calamity on one of the restarts that got us to third and then we were in position to race for this thing and the win.
Exciting race in general, extremely exciting race for the point championship having literally four of us with a really good shot to win it. To have a champion sitting there with a brace on his wrist because he’s broken his wrist shows how hard and how much these guys want to win races and win championships with SRX.”
PHOTOS AND QUOTES COURTESY OF SRX
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