Stewart aims for season rejuvenation at Skagit, Grays Harbor
Shane Stewart hopes to get back to winning ways in Washington during final stretch with CJB Motorsports
Story By: Nick Graziano/WoO
Photos By: Dan DeMarco/RacersGuide.com
ALGER, WA – Aug. 28 – Shane Stewart has one main goal for the remainder of the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series season: to get his name “out of the mud.”
The Bixby, Oklahoma driver has been through a gamut of emotions this season; from the joy of winning an inaugural race at the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway to the disappointment of crashing on his qualifying night for the Knoxville Nationals, after setting Quick Time.
He also recently found out his first year with CJB Motorsports will be his last after the season finale at the World Finals.
“We weren’t meshing together,” said Chad Clemens, part owner of CJB Motorsports. “It’s business. Shane knows the deal. We know the deal. He’s a great guy. Great family. But we’re not meshing as a team. When that happens you have to make changes and that’s pretty much what we chose to do.
“I felt like I gave him plenty of time, you know I didn’t hold it from him for another month or two or whatever and throw it on him. I gave him enough time, out of respect to him, to say, ‘Hey listen, we’re going in a different direction’ and that’s what we chose.”
With no confirmed plans for 2020, yet, Stewart is focused on finishing the year strong with the team, starting this weekend in Washington.
On Aug. 30-31 the Series will be at Skagit Speedway and on Sept. 2 it will venture to Grays Harbor Raceway – two tracks Stewart has previously won at. He was a car length’s distance away from winning the first night at Skagit Speedway last year, too.
“I’ve just always been really good at those tracks,” Stewart said. “I’ve picked up big wins at both of them. Never been able to win the final night at Skagit for the Outlaw races, but we’ve been in contention. Just always had a good package for both racetracks.”
The late summer West Coast swing is the best time of year, according to Stewart, and he’s going into it with some momentum.
He led laps and finished second at Black Hills Speedway and then followed that up with a top-10 run at Big Sky Speedway.
The highs and lows of the season “have been a lot to take in,” Stewart said. Including the loss of crew chief Barry Jackson, who will be working with affiliated KI Crossbow sponsored driver Kerry Madsen for the rest of the 2019 season. Jackson will still be available to help, especially when Madsen is racing with the World of Outlaws, Stewart said, but the it’s up to him and his crew to set up the car and figure out the shock package.
Jackson went off the road to get a head start on the 2020 season, Clemens said. The team felt working with Madsen and his team for the rest of the season would be a good test to try different things for next year. Jackson will be back with the CJB Motorsports No. 5 car next year.
CJB Motorsports has yet to decide on who will replace Stewart next year. That decision may come in the next 30 to 60 days, according to Clemens. The team is also exploring the possibility of a second car that may run about 60 races next year.
“That’s sort of just talk,” Clemens said about a second car. “Nothing etched in stone.”
For the remainder of the year, Clemens said he would like to see Stewart win races, be in the top-five and gain some confidence for himself.
Stewart was initially disappointed losing the win at Black Hills Speedway – which the team ran without Jackson – but he’s found the positives in the finish.
“I think if you take a step back and look at our performance [at Black Hills Speedway] it says a lot about the guys and the hard work they continue to do for me,” Stewart said. “We’ve got great pieces here. Just have to make them work. Barry has said this the whole season, everything is here. But sometimes, for some weird reason, things don’t mesh the right way.”
One issue he’s been dealing with is trying to get comfortable in the CJB Motorsports cars. Some nights he is. Others he’s not. Stewart said he’s used to picking his own cars and doing his own thing with previous teams. But CJB Motorsports was a different atmosphere he had to learn with Jackson building and maintaining the cars his own way.
“I had to kind of learn to drive a different way,” Stewart said. “These cars are a little tighter than what I’ve been used to. I just didn’t do a very good job of doing that.”
He stated all of the ingredients to run up front and finish high in points are in the team, so it’s been aggravating to everyone that they haven’t been able to find the level of consistency needed to do so.
“Hopefully we can finish the year strong and we can all kind of separate and go our own ways on good conditions, good faith and chalk it up as a good experience that we’ve all learned a lot from,” Stewart said.
Stewart is still looking forward to the rest of the season. There are several races coming up, such as the ones at Skagit Speedway and Grays Harbor Raceway, where he’s had success before. Several chances to get his name “out of the mud.”
“The thing is, Sprint Car fans, Sprint Car mechanics, owners, you’re only as good as your last race out here,” Stewart said. “My name hasn’t been mentioned too many times this year. And that’s one thing I’ve got to concentrate on and get good strong finishes. And get my name back up to where it used to be. And where it should be. And where it needs to be. That’s just one thing I’m going to try and focus on real hard and try to accomplish.”