Stewart Feeling At Home In No. 71

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Shane Stewart (71) tussles with Sheldon Haudenschild and David Gravel at Lake Ozark Speedway. (Brad Plant photo)
Shane Stewart (71) tussles with Sheldon Haudenschild and David Gravel at Lake Ozark Speedway. (Brad Plant photo)

BEAVER DAM, Wis. — After two years of going from one team to another with frustrating results, Shane Stewart was ready to quit sprint car racing. This year, he’s having fun again.

Stewart is fifth in the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series standings after eight races.

He lost his ride with CJB Motorsports at the end of 2019 but was able to get in a second Sides Motorsports entry for the three season-opening races at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park. Plans to run a Roth Motorsports car during the spring California swing were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, when racing resumed, Stewart returned to Bernie Stuebgen’s Indy Race Parts No. 71.

“I drove the 71 several years back and had a little bit of success with Bernie and Betsy (Stuebgen),” said Stewart, who drove the No. 71 in a few events in 2013. “I’ve seen the guys drive it after I did and they’ve all been really fast in this car. So, when the opportunity came my way to jump in it and run a few races I was pretty excited to do that.”

Stewart finished 16th at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway in his first race with the team this year. While it wasn’t the result they hoped for, Stewart said they learned what changes needed to be made. Since then, he’s finished fourth, sixth, fourth and fourth.

“I think our car has been pretty quick the last few races, but I also feel like I’ve qualified in the right spot, too,” Stewart said. “That’s been important lately. I still feel like our car has been competitive during feature times, as well. We’re having fun. This is a small race team. Not a lot of money behind it. But what (Stuebgen) does have is competitive stuff. His motors run good with Charlie Garrett. Bernie has a pretty good inside on how to make these Maxim cars work. I’m having a good time.”

Stewart struggled through a season last year during which he won only one WoO feature. Winning races in Australia during the winter helped him reset his confidence.

“Anytime you can win, it always builds your confidence,” Stewart said. “The group of guys I was racing with in Australia, they’re not Outlaw caliber teams or drivers. But it was still a win, which helps.

“I knew that I hadn’t forgot how to drive. You just have to get yourself in a situation where the people around you believe in you.”

He believes he has that with Stuebgen and his team. The Oklahoma native will drive the No 71 this weekend at Wisconsin’s Beaver Dam Raceway and the following weekend at Knoxville Raceway. After that, Stewart’s plans are uncertain.

“Obviously, Bernie has to pay attention to the schedule and not miss too many days of work,” Stewart said. “We’d love to continue to race with the Outlaws and that’s our plan.”