On a night full of flaring tempers, including his own, Tony Stewart held off Greg Biffle to win Saturday night’s Camping World SRX Racing event at South Boston Speedway in Virginia.
The defending series champion bounced back from his worst performance in series last week at Five Flags Speedway to tame a 100-lap main event that was largely controlled by NASCAR stars, as Bobby Labonte finished third and Ryan Newman placed fourth.
It is Stewart’s third main event win after he placed second in the first heat race and sixth in the second.
“I was worried we’d get a caution late, so I just tried to take care of (Biffle) there,” Stewart told CBS. “I think I was making some problems a little bit worse by not running as hard as I was earlier. … I haven’t been to South Boston since I ran a midget clear back in 2001 or 02, or something like that. Couldn’t remember the characteristics of this track when it cools off. Was hoping it was going to tighten up and it did a little bit, just not as much as we needed.”
The top five was completed by Five Flags Speedway winner Helio Castroneves. He was followed by Tony Kanaan, Ernie Francis Jr. and Marco Andretti.
Greg Biffle on everything he tried to get around Tony Stewart pic.twitter.com/hAYWURwDnZ— Matt Weaver (@MattWeaverRA) June 26, 2022
Six-time South Boston track champion Peyton Sellers never really factored into the night’s events. He finished quietly in 10th.
After starting on the front row, Stewart took the lead and stayed there until Lap 9. That’s when Andretti got underneath Stewart and made contact with him that moved Stewart out of the way, allowing Andretti to get by.
Andretti would lead until the first “fun flag” caution on Lap 25.
It went back to green on Lap 33 as Stewart pulled ahead. But two laps later Ryan Hunter-Reay got sideways in Turn 4 and drifted up the track into Paul Tracy. That contact forced Tracy hard into the outside wall, bringing out the caution and ending Tracy’s night.
Andretti stayed in the lead on the ensuing restart.
On Lap 59 Stewart returned the favor to Andretti, using his bumper to move Andretti out of the way to take the lead. Andretti was then passed for second by Biffle. Andretti tried to get back by Biffle on the inside with a crossover move, but he went in too deep, made contact with Biffle and spun to bring out the caution.
The race resumed on Lap 67 with Stewart trying to defend against Labonte and Biffle. But within moments, Hunter-Reay got into the left rear of Michael Waltrip, sending him hard into the outside wall.
Waltrip showed his displeasure by slowing down in front of Hunter-Reay during the caution and then making contact with him multiple times.
“I got dumped,” Waltrip said. “Halfway down the back he got into me and never let me go. I just don’t understand how that could happen. … He’s going to hear from Uncle Mike. We’re not going to have a beer together, A. That’s just not right. That’s not how you race. I didn’t want to tear up his car, I just wanted to send a message. So hopefully message received. I’m going to wait around and have a chat with him.
With that, the race went back to green with 25 laps to go as Stewart led over Biffle.
Even before the main event there were plenty of fireworks.
In the second heat race, old IndyCar rivals Tracy and Castroneves had a run-in while battling for the lead. Castroneves, running in second, got into Tracy and sent him into a spin.
“He just ran right over me,” Tracy said. “If I have a bad night, I’m going to be waiting for him.”
During the break, an irate Stewart confronted Francis Jr. following their own on-track exchange.
Awesome!!! pic.twitter.com/X0vradiiao— peter lombari (@lombari_peter) June 26, 2022
“Well, (Francis) pissed off Uncle Tony right now,” Stewart told Willy T. Ribbs. “They’re about to get a dose of it they don’t want. Trust me, I know every dirty trick. I’ve got it in my bag. When you’re following somebody and a guy’s on the outside and as soon as he gets clears he turns down across, that’s the dumbest s— you can do, I swear to god. I’m just done playing nice with everybody. Anybody that touches me, I’m touching back times five. I’m done jacking with some of these clowns.”
Francis responded in his own defiant way: “He came over afterwards pretty upset. I’m not going to take that from him, I know he’s the boss. Rubbin’s racing out there. He got up on my inside, I didn’t se him there. I was two-wide with Andretti and someone else. I turned down, didn’t see his car there until the last second. For him to hit me under caution, that’s kind of a dirty move there. That’s the kind of stuff Paul Tracy does.”