OCALA, Fla. — Series owner Tony Stewart came within two laps of opening the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Circuit of Champions season with a victory Thursday night at Bubba Raceway Park.
But racelong pursuer Tim Shaffer, who said he “lost the race four or five times,” persevered and claimed the $5,000 win over Shane Stewart, Tony Stewart, fast-timer Carson Short and Sheldon Haudenschild.
Tony Stewart got the drop on polesitter and front row companion Carson Macedo on the break and by lap five was lapping the back markers with the third-starting Shaffer in hot pursuit.
Shaffer got alongside the leader a few times during the first half of the race but couldn’t get any further until lap 19, when he dived under Stewart entering turn one to get the lead.
But before the lap was completed, Macedo stalled in turn four and Stewart was back on top for the restart with Shaffer and Shane Stewart, up from sixth, ready to continue their attack.
Tony Stewart got a great start but Shaffer struggled, with Shane Stewart, Short and a couple of other cars shooting past before he got going again.
“It wouldn’t go on that last restart, so I decided to start looking for moisture,” tipped Shaffer. “I kept driving through the moisture and it let me drive back to the front.”
Meanwhile, Shane Stewart caught Tony Stewart on lap 23 and grabbed the lead, only to have Tony, who’d been doing a masterful job in traffic all night, take it back two laps later. By then, Shaffer was back on the scene, following Tony Stewart past Shane Stewart. The next time around, Shaffer sailed around Tony Stewart.
“It’s a tricky track and if you lose your momentum, you can lose a lot of positions,” summed up Shaffer. “On the other hand, it makes a great race for the fans.”
Tony Stewart, commenting on getting through the endless traffic, said “the track was wide enough that you could run anywhere you needed to. But it’s a very technical track and you have to pick your spots. At the end, I was struggling but it was entirely my fault. I think I sealed a tire over spinning them before that last restart.”
As for Shane Stewart, he was pleased with his second-place finish in his maiden voyage in the CJB Motorsports No. 5.
“We had a good car and I’m happy with the result, considering it’s our first time out together,” he said. “Plus, I’ve never been here before and it’s a tricky place.”
Chad Kemenah led the second five, trailed by Logan Schuchart, Brock Zearfoss, Cory Eliason and Aaron Reutzal.
1. 49X-Tim Shaffer ; 2. 5-Shane Stewart ; 3. 14-Tony Stewart ; 4. 21-Carson Short ; 5. 17S-Sheldon Haudenschild ; 6. K4-Chad Kemenah ; 7. 1S-Logan Schuchart ; 8. 70-Brock Zearfoss ; 9. 26-Cory Eliason ; 10. 87-Aaron Reutzel ; 11. M1-Mark Smith ; 12. 70X-Spencer Bayston ; 13. 7K-Cale Conley ; 14. 13-Paul McMahan ; 15. 17-Josh Baughman ; 16. 17W-Shane Golobic ; 17. 48-Danny Dietrich ; 18. 5W-Lucas Wolfe ; 19. J4-John Garvin ; 20. 40-George Hobaugh ; 21. 2-Carson Macedo ; 22. 4-Danny Smith ; 23. 1A-Jacob Allen ; 24. 33-Max Stambaugh  Lap Leaders: Tony Stewart (1-23), Shane Stewart (24), Tony Stewart (25-27), Tim Shaffer (28-30)