MECHANICSBURG, PA.: Shane Stewart seemed to struggle for the right words Saturday night at Williams Grove Speedway.
There was no bitter disappointment. It wasn’t like he had a near miss battling for the lead or an altercation with another driver that was tough to explain and required some politically correct rhetoric.
This was more of a stunned excitement. Stewart couldn’t believe he was standing on the frontstretch holding a checkered flag.
Not at Williams Grove Speedway!
Stewart took advantage of a good starting spot and passed T.J. Stutts to take the lead near the halfway point. From there, he tip-toed around a tricky surface to capture the 30-lap World of Outlaws main event.
It was Stewart’s first career victory at the historical oval. The win was worth $17,000 and put the Morgan Cup back in the hands of the World of Outlaws.
“If you would have told me that my first win of the season was going to be at this racetrack, I wouldn’t have put all of Donald Trump’s money on that one,” Stewart said with a chuckle.
That’s a fair statement. Stewart’s never been particularly good at the Grove or in central Pennsylvania, for that matter.
But there were unique circumstances. The track was quick, but a strip of moisture made the racing lane narrow, and Stewart was able to hit his marks and stay at the front of a talented field.
Stewart was on the pole but lost the lead on the start to Stutts, who gained momentum off the outside and took the bottom away in Turn 1. Stewart settled into second, with Sheldon Haudenschild taking third.
There was no passing in the top five until Lap 7. Haudenshild did a 360 in Turn 1 and fell from third to eighth.
Meanwhile, Stutts’ lead started to shrink. Stewart pulled within .257 seconds by the completion of Lap 10. On the next circuit, Stewart got around Stutts in Turn 1, but the Liverpool ace got it back at the stripe by a nose.
Heading into Turn 1 on Lap 12, Stewart moved up a lane on Stutts and grabbed the lead. The pass was negated when Haudenschild spun in Turn 3 before the lap was complete, putting Stutts back out front.
But Stutts’ position was short-lived. He took the bottom on the restart, and Stewart blew around him in Turn 1 to pace the field.
“Track position was everything,” Stewart said. “This place gets really, really dirty. As I came up on lapped traffic, I was more or less stuck. Typically, you see two grooves here, but tonight, it just wasn’t there.
“Obviously, the dash draw put us out front. I didn’t get a good initial start, but T.J. picked the bottom, and I thought the top was going to be better. It just worked out well for us.”
Stewart ran the bottom in Turns 1 and 2 and the middle at the other end of the speedway to build a 1.125-second lead by Lap 15. One lap later, the lead was wiped out when Brian Montieth and Brent Marks got together in Turn 2.
That set up another restart. Stewart chose the outside and took off on the start, pulling away to a sizable lead. Daryn Pittman, who started 12th, advanced to fourth on the restart and started to challenge Tim Shaffer for third.
Stewart opened up a 2.721-second lead by Lap 20. Two laps later, Kraig Kinser slowed on the frontstretch to bring out the final caution.
The last restart got a little wild. Stutts slid up, and Pittman took advantage, slipping under Shaffer and Stutts to take second.
“Hats off to my Great Clips guys,” Pittman said. “I had such a good car on restarts. It just had the right attitude. A lot of guys were rolled up on the start, and I could get by a couple of guys.
“We’ve worked so hard on this car. I feel we have been struggling, and I’m glad to come in here and run solid all three nights, Lincoln and two nights here.”
Williams Grove isn’t Stewart’s best track, but he never wavered down the stretch. He hit his marks and went unchallenged to the win. Pittman settled for second, followed by Shaffer, Lance Dewease and Logan Schuchart.
“Clean air,” said Stewart, who was on a Cool Chassis. “You can’t put more words into it than that. It’s everything and makes a big difference.
“Bob, Heath, and Dennis have worked really hard this year. We haven’t had good finishes and had some races we should have won, and I either screwed up or crazy stuff happened.”
Continued Stewart, “You don’t even know what it feels like to finally get here to Victory Lane. The East Coast isn’t always kind to me, but I’m very happy and will cherish this win, for sure.”
Feature Finish, 30 Laps: 1. Shane Stewart; 2. Daryn Pittman; 3. Tim Shaffer; 4. Lance Dewease; 5. Logan Schuchart; 6. T.J. Stutts; 7. Ryan Taylor; 8. David Gravel; 9. Jason Johnson; 10. Brad Sweet; 11. Dale Blaney; 12. Danny Dietrich; 13. Lucas Wolfe; 14. Donny Schatz; 15. Jason Sides; 16. Brandon Rahmer; 17. Joey Saldana; 18. Sheldon Haudenschils; 19. Trey Starks; 20. Anthony Macri; 21. Kraig Kinser; 22. Greg Hodnett; 23. Brent Marks; 24. Brian Montieth.
DNQ: Freddie Rahmer; Alan Krimes; Cory Haas; Steve Buckwalter; Dave Blaney; Doug Esh; Brock Zearfoss; Jacob Allen; Greg Wilson; Frankie Herr; Troy Fraker; Paul McMahan; Clyde Knipp.