NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart, who was presented the 2011 Mario Andretti Trophy Sunday night for his amazing end-of-season charge that saw him win five of the 10 Chase for the Championship races, is returning to where it all began, Ontario’s Ohsweken Speedway, next summer.
Stewart was having a less-than-stellar season in 2011 until one night in July when he drove in a World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series race at the dirt oval on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford and won not only his first Outlaws feature but his first race of the year in any series.
After that, he seemed buoyed and his NASCAR season turned around.
According to my friend Dean McNulty of the Sun, Stewart displayed the oversize cheque for $10,000 that he received for winning the Ohsweken race from the rear window of his motorhome for the rest of the summer. He said, according to Dean, that it served as inspiration for him to buckle down and win the Sprint Cup.
I was told late last week by a World of Outlaws regular that Ohsweken owner Glenn Styres received a commitment from Stewart at the Chili Bowl midget race in Tulsa in January – both Styres and Stewart were competing in the annual mid-winter indoor classic – to return to Ontario in July to defend his race championship.
I’ve said on many occasions that if you haven’t seen a World of Outlaws race in person that you are missing one of the great spectacles in sport, not just racing.
And with Stewart returning to take on the King of the Outlaws, Steve Kinser, and the rest of the band led by Joey Saldana, Jason Myers and Craig Dollansky, you can bet it will be thunder and lightning at Ohsweken next summer.
Check the Ohsweken Speedway website for additional details and advance ticket information.
Andretti presented his namesake trophy to Stewart on Sunday night’s edition of the Speed Center motorsport news program, acknowledging the three-time champion’s Chase run as the difference maker among a very impressive field of finalists for the annual SPEED Performer of the Year presented by ACE
Runner-up in the 2011 season was Moto GP ace Casey Stoner. In 2010, the winner was F1 world champion Sebastien Vettel with five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson second. Johnson dominated from 2006 to 2008, with drag racer Tony Schumacher winning for 2009.
If Rubens Barrichello likes the KV Racing Indy car he’s testing for two days at Sebring – the final day of his test is today (Tuesday) – there is funding in place for him to run a full season, team co-owner (with multimillionaire Kevin Kalkhoven) Jimmie Vasser said Monday.
Barrichello took just a few laps to get his bearings before ripping off laps that were just a shade short of the times being turned in by his best friend and countryman Tony Kanaan, whose email of support to the F1 star last week triggered the tryout.
Barrichello was dropped from the Williams F1 lineup when Sir Frank opted to sign Bruno Senna. Kanaan’s email suggested there was life after F1 - in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Said Barrichello: "I don't have anything else (in competitive driving in 2011), so we'll see."