By Lonnie Wheatley
TUCSON, Ariz. (February 19, 2011) – Shane Stewart escaped the opening two weekends of 2011 competition with the early Lucas Oil ASCS presented by K&N Filters National points lead by racing to victory lane in Saturday night’s 30-lap Fifth Annual Copper on Dirt championship finale at USA Raceway, a triumph worth $6,000.
The 2009 series champion from Bixby, OK, chased down race-long leader Jack Dover on the 23rd circuit en route to his first win of the season aboard Paul Silva’s Wesmar-powered Rockstar Energy Drink No. 57 A.R.T.
Stewart and Dover were chased to the line by Brodix Rookie of the Year contender Aaron Reutzel of Clute, TX, who posted a career best ASCS National finish of third with Jeff Swindell and Johnny Herrera rounding out the top five.
“We’ve been fast every night out, I just haven’t been able to capitalize on it,” Stewart explained after his 23rd career ASCS National feature win. “Tonight, everything fell into place, I could drive the car anywhere I wanted it and traffic worked out perfectly.”
After a third-place finish in Friday night’s hotly-contested preliminary feature behind Herrera and Swindell, Stewart drew the inside third row starting position alongside Herrera while Friday’s fourth-finishing Dover drew the pole.
Subbing for reigning series champion Jason Johnson aboard the Don Ott-powered Haynes No. 41 Maxim with the “Ragin’ Cajun” still in Australia, Dover gunned into the lead at the outset with fellow front row starter Tim Crawley and fourth-starter Swindell chasing in the early circuits along with third-starter Aaron Reutzel and Stewart.
With traffic a factor within five circuits, Stewart slipped around past ASCS Gulf South champion Reutzel for fourth by the time the first of two cautions flew after seven rounds when Washington’s Josh DeWitt clipped a tire exiting turn two and spun to a stop on the backstretch with front end damage.
Back under way, Dover worked high and low as Crawley and Swindell railed the high side of the track in pursuit with Stewart lurking close behind as well. As Dover approached traffic once again, Crawley closed in and pressured for the lead.
But, traffic fell directly into Stewart’s hands with a slick move to the low side of turns one and two on the 16th round to rally past both Swindell and Crawley to take over second and move in on Dover’s tailtank.
“I knew traffic would probably come into play, so I’d tried the bottom side of the track a time or two to make sure it would work when I needed it to,” Stewart explained.
With Dover running the lower portion of turns one and two, Stewart began pressuring on the top side with Dover taking to the upper reaches of the 3/8-mile clay oval as well on the 20th lap to defend the lead. “I didn’t expect one and two to be so fast around the top, I knew I could hear someone coming”, the 21-year-old Nebraska shoe explained.
When Dover dropped back to the low side in traffic on the 23rd lap, Stewart pulled even along the cushion exiting turn two and then dove into the lead entering turn three.
After a quick caution a lap later for Lance Norick’s turn two spin, Stewart kept Dover at bay over the final six rounds, splitting a pair of lapped cars as the white flag flew to put away the win.
Dover settled for runner-up honors, explaining that, “It would have been better if we could have got the JJR car in first place. I told him we were gonna try to get on the podium and we got that done, so I’m happy.
Behind the lead duo, Rookie contender Reutzel worked his way past Crawley and Swindell in mid-race traffic to take over third and held on to the podium position over the final circuits to best his previous career-best ASCS National finish of fifth one night earlier aboard Kenny Reutzel’s Motor Mike-powered Simpson Race Products No. 87 Triple-X.
“It feels like a win!” the enthused 20-year-old exclaimed after his first National podium finish. “It’s a dream come true to come out here and compete with these guys, I’m just so stoked, this is just amazing for a family team.”
Swindell brought the Carl Edwards-RE Technologies/Davis Paint & Drywall No. 28 Maxim to the stripe fourth, with Copper on Dirt preliminary feature winner Herrera rounding out the top five in the Wesmar-powered No. 45x Maxim.
Brady Bacon, the 2010 series points runner-up, landed his best feature finish of the young season with a sixth-place showing, with Crawley slipping to seventh in the final rounds.
Zach Chappell shook off the ill luck that has plagued him over the initial three nights of the season to finish eighth, with Brodix Rookie of the Year contender Logan Forler charging from 17th to ninth. Four-time series champion Gary Wright completed the top ten.
New Mexico’s Joshua Hodges was the top-finishing ASCS Southwest contender in 14th.
Reutzel, Mason Moore and Crawley topped the night’s heat race action, with Forler awarded the “B” Main win after apparent winner Dalten Gabbard came up light at the scales.
John Van Horn and Steve Stone were both done for the night after separate turn four flips in heat race action, while Dustin Morgan was done after losing his second engine of the season in heat race action as well.
Ranked among the top ten in points after the first three nights of competition, 14-year-old Trey Starks had worked up to a transfer position in “B” Main action until collected when second-running Kyle McCutcheon looped it in turn four mid-race. Brady Demeree also flipped in turn four in the “B” Main.
Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Cars presented by K&N Filters
Fifth Annual Copper on Dirt Finale
USA Raceway – Tucson, AZ
Locked in From Friday Night’s Preliminary Feature:
45x-Johnny Herrera, 28-Jeff Swindell, 57-Shane Stewart, 41-Jack Dover.
Heat Races (Top 12 in Passing Points to “A” Main; Balance to “B” Main):
Heat One (8 Laps): 1. 87-Aaron Reutzel, 2. 99-Brady Bacon, 3. 21-Zach Zimmerly, 4. 23-Seth Bergman, 5. 74x-Joshua Hodges, 6. 90-Lance Norick, 7. 55-Trey Starks, 8. 15d-Brady Demeree, 9. 18w-Lorne Wofford, 10. 5az-John Van Horn.
Heat Two (8 Laps): 1. 5h-Mason Moore, 2. 12-Josh Grady, 3. 01-Gary Wright, 4. 77-Dalten Gabbard, 5. 2L-Logan Forler, 6. 92-Andy Forsberg, 7. 20z-Rick Ziehl, 8. 41w-Joshua Williams, 9. 8az-Jordan Stetson, 10. 57x-Steve Stone.
Heat Three (8 Laps): 1. 88-Tim Crawley, 2. 0-Zach Chappell, 3. 79-Calvin Landis, 4. 18-Tony Bruce, Jr., 5. 5-Kyle McCutcheon, 6. 8-John Carney II, 7. 5d-Josh DeWitt, 8. 78-Jody Williams, 9. 15c-Joey Chester, 10. 2-Dustin Morgan.
“B” Main (Top 6 Advance to “A” Main):
First “B” Feature (12 Laps): 1. 2L-Logan Forler, 2. 92-Andy Forsberg, 3. 8-John Carney II, 4. 5d-Josh DeWitt, 5. 20z-Rick Ziehl, 6. 90-Lance Norick, 7. 78-Jody Williams, 8. 8az-Jordan Stetson, 9. 15d-Brady Demeree, 10. 41w-Joshua Williams, 11. 5-Kyle McCutcheon, 12. 55-Trey Starks, 13. 77-Dalten Gabbard (Disqualified: failed to meet minimum weight of 1,475 lbs. after finishing first). DNS: 18w-Lorne Wofford, 15c-Joey Chester, 5az-John Van Horn, 2-Dustin Morgan, 57x-Steve Stone.
Copper on Dirt Championship “A” Main:
“A” Feature (30 Laps): 1. 57-Shane Stewart, 2. 41-Jack Dover, 3. 87-Aaron Reutzel, 4. 28-Jeff Swindell, 5. 45x-Johnny Herrera, 6. 99-Brady Bacon, 7. 88-Tim Crawley, 8. 0-Zach Chappell, 9. 2L-Logan Forler, 10. 01-Gary Wright, 11. 23-Seth Bergman, 12. 21-Zach Zimmerly, 13. 18-Tony Bruce, Jr., 14. 74x-Joshua Hodges, 15. 8-John Carney II, 16. 79-Calvin Landis, 17. 92-Andy Forsberg, 18. 20z-Rick Ziehl, 19. 12-Josh Grady, 20. 90-Lance Norick, 21. 5d-Josh DeWitt, 22. 5h-Mason Moore.
Lap Leaders: Jack Dover 1-22, Shane Stewart 23-30.
Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Cars presented by K&N Filters Driver Points (Top 15): 1. Shane Stewart 545, 2. Johnny Herrera 518, 3. Jeff Swindell 475, 4. Tim Crawley 455, 5. Seth Bergman 448, 6. Brady Bacon 431, 7. Aaron Reutzel 421, 8. Gary Wright 418, 9. Tony Bruce, Jr. 398, 10. (tie) Mason Moore and Trey Starks 391, 12. Zach Zimmerly 371, 13. Logan Forler 365, 14. Zach Chappell 349, 15. Dustin Morgan 347.
Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Cars presented by K&N Filters Owner Points (Top 15): 1. Jason Johnson Racing #41 – 552, 2. Paul Silva #57 – 545, 3. Herrera/Main #45x – 518, 4. Swindell Group #28 – 475, 5. Mike Ward #88 – 455, 6. Petersen Motorsports #23 – 448, 7. Tel-Star Communications #99 – 431, 8. (tie) Kenny Reutzel #87 and Brian Brown Racing #21 – 421, 10. Cooper/Sperry #01/51 – 418, 11. Bruce Racing #18 – 398, 12. Harley Van Dyke #5h and Terry Starks #55 – 391, 14. Steve Forler #2L – 365, 15. Randy Washburn #0 – 349.
ASCS Southwest Points (Top 10): 1. Joshua Hodges 292, 2. Rick Ziehl 280, 3. John Carney II 277, 4. Lance Norick 244, 5. Josh Grady 241, 6. Kyle McCutcheon 240, 7. Joshua Williams 238, 8. Calvin Landis 237, 9. Jordan Stetson 232, 10. Dalten Gabbard 230.