CEDAR RAPIDS – The Stewart family members are no strangers to auto racing in Iowa.
The last time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony “Smoke” Stewart raced in the state his season came to a screeching halt after undergoing surgery to repair a broken leg suffered in a sprint car wreck in Oskaloosa.
His father, Nelson Stewart, fared much better in his latest contest. He joined the legend cars field for Season Championship Night last night at Hawkeye Downs Speedway. Nelson Stewart overcame a multi-car wreck with nine laps left to place ninth, as Bryce Bailey won his fourth feature of the season.
Nelson Stewart received some good-natured ribbing from some other drivers before hot laps. The camaraderie and the chance to race on asphalt for the first time this season attracted him to Hawkeye Downs.
“It’s all because of friends,” said Nelson Stewart, noting good ties with regular drivers Warren Ropp, Rod McGlothlen, Al Diercks and Mark Ironside. “I haven’t run on asphalt this year so I thought I’d come out. I had the opportunity since we weren’t running anywhere else.”
Nelson Stewart has run in Eastern Iowa plenty of times. He said he has raced about 14 times this season, including eight starts at Cedar County Raceway in Tipton and Dubuque Speedway. The elder Stewart plans to race at Farley Speedway in a couple weeks, anticipating 25 starts this year.
“(Legend cars) are all I run,” said Nelson Stewart, who will compete in INEX Dirt Nationals at Beaver Dam (Wis.) Raceway in October. “I run primarily dirt. I’ve had this car all year, but never driven it yet.”
Nelson Stewart, 75, of Avon, Ind., has raced “off and on” since he was 19 years old. He laughed and said he doesn’t have the same energy he had years ago to stay up all night for racing. The same passion for the sport exists after all those laps and races.
“I still get excited,” Nelson Stewart said. “I still enjoy doing it.”
He has not been fazed by the accident his son experienced earlier this month at Southern Iowa Speedway. He said his son will be able to return in about five months, needing almost two years to totally heal. Tony Stewart, a three-time Sprint Cup champion and owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, received good news from the doctor Wednesday.
“He’s got to stay in bed for another week and then they’ll take the stitches out,” Nelson Stewart said. “Hopefully, they’ll turn him loose to be as mobile as he wants to be in a wheelchair or on crutches.”
Bailey capped a wild feature by holding off teenager Austin Kunert in a green-white-checkered flag finish. Bailey was spun out with two laps left, bring out the final yellow flag in a caution-filled 30-lap race. Tim Goettsch won the seasons points title in the legends class, despite being involved in an altercation with another driver after they had an accident in Turn 1 during the last caution.
The hobby stock feature came down to an exciting finish with season points champion Matt Petrzelka, Kandi Floyd and Matt Lacoursiere crossing the finish line three wide at nearly the same moment.
As officials were consulting transponders, Floyd celebrated her second feature win of the season in victory lane. Petrzelka claimed his third straight points title.
The sportsman division finished its competition with a physical feature that saw Brian Franks flex his muscle for his only win of the year. Franks recovered from making contact after driving door-to-door with season points champion Dave McCalla, sending both spinning out with 10 laps to go.
Franks took the lead after a hump to Ben Glascock with seven laps to go, and held off a push from both Glascock and McCalla. After the first incident, Franks was determined to get to the front no matter who as in his way.
“I don’t even know what happened,” said Franks, who was driving a car Jim Hanson took to victory lane earlier in the season. “I got dumped and I was mad.”
McCalla won his consecutive season points crown, celebrating with a smoky burn-out for fans on the front stretch.
Wall of Fame driver Mike Schulte, who runs part-time, won the modified feature, finishing ahead of nephew, Tim Plummer, who won the modified track championship.
“Finally, the car was pretty good tonight,” Schulte said. “First time all year. Finally got here.”
Kurt Bohnsack won his eighth feature of the season, grabbing the lead for good just after the midway point of the 20-lap contest. He also won his first season title since claiming the 2008 stock cars championship.
Bohnsack went from the rear of the field to putting the competition in his rear-view mirror.
“I had a good-handling car,” said Bohnsack, who was doused with beer by a friend during his victory lane celebration. “We had fun.”
The late model feature got off to a rough start. Four cars made contact in Turn 4 of the opening lap, forcing half of the eight-car race off the track. After a lengthy delay for the track to be cleaned and cleared, Tim Plummer and Andy Edwards jockeyed for position before Plummer took control.
Plummer’s next challenge was presented by Thor Anderson. Plummer had too much for Anderson, earning his sixth win of the season and the points title. It was his second in the division, winning his first in 2010.
“I got faster as the year went on, which is what is important, I guess,” Plummer said. “We’ll take it.”
Plummer touched on the highly aggressive driving that was displayed in the season finale. Plenty of time in the offseason for repairs.
“I don’t know if it was close to a full moon on the last night, but, man, there was a lot of beating and banging going on,” Plummer said. “I know I don’t want to work on my car that bad.”
HAWKEYE DOWNS SPEEDWAY
Heat winners – 1st: Jason Sherman; 2nd: Kandi Floyd
Feature - 1. Floyd, 2. Matt Petrzelka, 3. Matt Lacoursiere, 4. Adam Petrzelka, 5. Sherman
Heat winner - Ben Glascock
Feature - 1. Brian Franks, 2. Dave McCalla, 3. Glascock, 4. Dave Ballstaedt, 5. Greg Hentrich
Trophy Dash - Caleb Adrian
Heat winners – 1st: Kyle Diercks; 2nd: Mark Ironside
Feature - 1. Bryce Bailey, 2. Austin Kunert, 3. Danny Lehmkuhl, 4. Al Diercks, 5. Ironside
Heat winner - Mike Schulte
Feature - 1. Schulte, 2. Tim Plummer, 3. Ryan Luedtke, 4. Steve Lindell, 5. Ed O’Brien
Heat winner - Kurt Bohnsack
Feature - 1. Bohnsack, 2. C.J. Van Horn, 3. Dan Schmidt, 4. Brad Schmidt, 5. Steve Woodrow
Heat winner - Thor Anderson
Feature - 1. Tim Plummer, 2. Anderson, 3. Andy Edwards, 4. Scott Siems