COLUMBUS, Ind. — Home cooking was exactly what Tony Stewart needed on Wednesday night, as his post-NASCAR racing schedule returned to his hometown and led to a victory in the UMRA King of TQ midgets feature at Bartholomew County Fairgrounds.
Stewart’s open-wheel career was kick-started in the UMRA TQ ranks some three decades ago, and he won Wednesday night’s event in a car owned by defending series champion Jason Setser.
Setser had won the last two series events, but stepped out of his car for Stewart to drive it, because the two cars in the field that Stewart owned were one-two in points entering the night and Stewart’s car that he had been building for the race was not yet finished.
Wednesday marked Stewart’s first time back at the fairgrounds track in his hometown since 2013.
“It’s a big deal to us,” Stewart told The Republic. “This is something I’ve been looking forward to. We were building a car, and it just didn’t get done in time, so Jason Setser let me drive his car tonight and have some fun. We’re getting a chance to race in front of people that don’t get a chance to come out and see us very much.”
“It’s a real big honor to have Tony driving ‘The Cure Stars Now’ car,” added Setser. “Me and Tony have been good friends for a long time. We’ve known each other since we were kids, and I mentioned to him a good while back about driving this, and he wanted to do it. So it’s a real cool deal.”
It was a clean sweep of the night for Stewart, who set fast time, won his heat race and then won the main event after a back-and-forth battle with Nick Spiedel in the closing stages of the 20-lap feature.
Starting seventh but working his way up through the field, Stewart passed Spiedel on lap 15, lost the lead briefly the next time around and then took the lead for good on the 17th round, surviving a three-lap dash to the finish after Spiedel ran into trouble, necessitating a late-race caution.
The win came on the eve of the three-day World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series Kings Royal weekend, held annually at Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Ohio.
The Republic contributed material to this staff report.