O’Reilly Auto Parts 500


By John Sturbin

Tony Stewart will showcase his passion for dirt track racing Friday and Saturday nights in Fort Worth as host of Tony Stewart’s Texas Sprint Car Nationals presented by Machinery Auctioneers.

Stewart and protégé Christopher Bell will headline a full field of ASCS Sprint Cars at the 0.4-mile Texas Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

A three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Stewart retired from the tour and its grind at the end of the 2016 season. As owner of iconic Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, Stewart remains close to his racing roots, often signing into tracks as Smoke Johnson.

“I was scheduled to run a Late Model race here 15 years ago and got rained out, so this is the first time I’ve had a chance to actually run the dirt track here,” Stewart said during a media session Friday afternoon. “It’s pretty cool. I get to run tonight and it’s cool that my buddy (Bell), who’s a part of TSR, gets to go out, too. The hard part is he’s probably going to whip up on me tonight and I’m going to feel like an idiot.”

Bell, a regular in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports, kicked off his 2017 season by winning the prestigious Chili Bowl Nationals at Tulsa, Okla., in January. Bell cut his racing teeth traveling from his hometown of Norman, Okla., into the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to regularly compete on its array of dirt tracks.

“It’s awesome to be able to promote sprint ar racing in front of the NASCAR fans and show how exciting sprint car racing is,” Bell said. “It’s going to be awesome to tie the connection between sprint car races and NASCAR races. I’ve been wondering ever since I was a kid coming down here”¦you’d drive down (Interstate) 35 going down to the local dirt tracks where I ran micro sprints and you’d see the big track and you’d see the dirt track. For a while it seemed that Sprint Car racing was absent at the dirt track, so it’s awesome to be able to bring Sprint Cars here on NASCAR weekend.”

Stewart said Bell will be the most talented driver on the grid both nights.

“The kid’s awesome, that’s why we want him in our race car,” Stewart said. “He’s fun to work with. I like being around him. Even on a night when it doesn’t go perfect he’s still smiling. It means a lot to us to have a guy like him. When you’ve got 370 of the best dirt track drivers in the country (at the Chili Bowl), he didn’t just barely win it - he won it big. Those kinds of wins are what define you as a driver. When you watch that you realize why he’s special.”

Stewart also suggested that once NASCAR fans experience the unique sound of a sprint car, they’ll be hooked.

“I think places like this and Charlotte that have a dirt track across the street, it’s the perfect way to have fans check it out,” Stewart said. “You know, it’s how I got here, it’s how Christopher got here”¦J.J. Yeley, Jason Leffler, Jeff Gordon. Running over there is what got us over here, so we want to show the fans who they are and the potential future stars. They’ve got a great facility over there - I mean, you’re not going to just an average race track.”

The TMS Dirt Track has seating for 10,994 fans.

About the author

The Texas Motor Speedway Media Relations Department is located on the 6th floor of The Speedway Club outside of Turn 1 of the speedway. 

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