LAKE ODESSA, Mich. – On a cold Friday night in mid-Michigan, Tony Stewart warmed up the crowd with a surprise appearance at I-96 Speedway that resulted in a victory with the Great Lakes Super Sprints.
The win was Stewart’s fourth of the season and first at I-96 Speedway.
“Thanks to all of the fans that stuck it out. I know its colder than hell up there and you guys are pretty damn tough,” Stewart said to the crowd that remained after the feature. “I sat in a warm trailer all night and complained about how cold it was. I know you guys are cold, so thank you for sticking it out.”
Friday was Stewart’s first driving appearance at I-96 since his USAC triple crown season in 1995, but the idea to make the trip north was planted during an appearance there several years ago.
“It’s fun to come up here,” noted Stewart. “I was up here with our All Stars a couple of years ago as an official and it looked like a lot of fun, so I didn’t want to miss the opportunity.”
Jay Steinebach took the lead from the start and led the first four circuits before Dylan Westbrook took the lead. Stewart moved into third on the opening lap and dropped Steinebach to third by lap six, before setting his sights on Westbook for the lead.
By lap 12, Stewart reeled in Westbrook, and the duo swapped the lead multiple times until Westbrook slipped up in turn four and allowed Stewart to take command on lap 16.
Westbrook was able to stay right on Stewart’s back bumper through slower traffic until the caution appeared when Andy Chehowski contacted a marker tire and slowed in turn two.
This started a chain reaction of red and yellow flag periods, including a flip by Connor Morrell that collected R.J. Jacobs and gave front end damage to Gregg Dalman, as well as Dustin Daggett flipping down the front stretch.
All drivers emerged from their cars under their own power.
After each restart, Stewart was up for the challenge pulling away from the field. Westbrook found himself pressured by teammates Jared Horstman and Max Stambaugh late in the event, with Horstman eventually taking second on lap 21.
However, Horstman could not catch Stewart, who raced to the win over Horstman, Westbrook, Stambaugh and Ricky Peterson.
Stewart was complementary of his competition after the main event.
“Dylan (Westbrook) is fun to race with. The thing with racing Dylan is he’s a clean driver. You know you can race like that and you are not going to put each other in bad spots,” Stewart noted. “It’s always fun to race guys like Dylan and Jared (Horstman); they are great guys and they are no slouches.
“They make you earn these things honest.”
1. 14 – Tony Stweart, 2. 17 – Jared Horstman, 3. 47X – Dylan Westbrook, 4. 17M – Max Stambaugh, 5. 16B – Ricky Peterson, 6. 16C – Zane DeVault, 7. 21 – Robbie Price, 8. 16 – Ryan Ruhl, 9. 7C – Phil Gressman, 10. 4D – Danny Sams, 11. 11R – Chase Ridenour, 12. 22M – Dan McCarron, 13. 71 – Ayrton Olson, 14. 10S – Jay Steinebach, 15. 7B – Trevor Berry, 16. 16W – Garrett Saunders, 17. 27X – Jared Lamberson, 18. 49T – Gregg Dalman, 19. 85 – Dustin Dagget, 20. 27 – Brad Lamberson, 21. 28M – Connor Morrell, 22. 18J – R.J. Jacobs, 23. 10 – Jason Blonde, 24. 20A – Andy Chehowski.