Stewart wins, 'Dude' runs sixth in IROC opener

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (February 15) -- Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series teammates Tony Stewart and Danny Lasoski represented the sprint car racing series with flying colors Friday in the True Value International Race of Champions opener at Daytona ...

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (February 15) -- Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series teammates Tony Stewart and Danny Lasoski represented the sprint car racing series with flying colors Friday in the True Value International Race of Champions opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Stewart, the runner-up in last year’s NASCAR Winston Cup standings, owns the #20 J.D. Byrider Eagle sprinter Lasoski races on dirt tracks around America. He won the second IROC race of his career, beating defending Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish, Jr., under the checkered flag by .111 seconds. "The Dude," the defending Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series champion racing in his first pavement race, finished sixth, ahead of 2001 IROC champion Bobby Labonte and Sterling Marlin of NASCAR, Kevin Harvick from the Busch Series, Buddy Lazier and Helio Castroneves of the IRL and Dale Jarrett from NASCAR.

After racing patiently behind Indy Racing League star Al Unser, Jr., for most of the second half of the 40-lap race, Stewart took the lead with less than two laps remaining. Stewart started his move around Unser on the back straightaway and completed the pass with drafting help from Hornish in the 33-degree banking between turns three and four on the high-banked, 2 ½-mile oval.

"In our Winston Cup car, you really want to be leading," Stewart said. "With these cars, you want to be second. Being second and in single file with two to go in these IROC cars is just about a perfect situation.

"Who'd have ever thought I'd be comfortable on a superspeedway?" the former IRL and defending Chili Bowl midget champion asked. "I’m starting to really like this place."

Lasoski, who followed Stewart, Hornish, IRL driver Scott Sharp, NASCAR truck champion Jack Sprague and Unser across the finish line, was amazed after his first IROC outing.

"That whole experience down there was remarkable," Lasoski said. "I had an awful lot to learn in a very short period of time. I wish I could run the race over again. There’s so much I learned during the race. When we first went down there and they gave us practice time, it was basically one-on-one practice. You didn’t get to draft with anybody. Guys can tell you about the draft, but until you experience it… "

Steve Kinser, the first driver to represent the Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series in International Race of Champions competition, finished seventh in his first IROC race on February 18, 1994.

"I’m sure Steve would know what I’m talking about," Lasoski said. "There are certain places you need to put your car to get the benefit (of drafting). I didn’t know what those were until I got out there racing. It took me 25-to-30 laps (of the 40-lap race) before anybody would trust me and tuck up. If you don’t have anybody behind you, you can’t move. Tony helped me early and peeled off to do what he had to do. When we talked about it before the race, he told me he would run with me and teach me, then just go on by. The latter part of the race, Bobby Labonte started working with me really good. We ran close together and that’s what helped us draft away from eighth, ninth and 10th. I’d go from 12th to sixth and back to 12th again before that. I found a little gap in the draft and I got by a couple of guys on the top. You have to get to double-file before that works. It was just a very good experience. I felt very good about maybe earning a little respect from those guys. I raced Jarrett, Marlin and those guys one-on-one. Everybody rubs a little bit, but they raced me really clean and I hope I gained a little respect from them."

Stewart, who won his first True Value IROC race last June at Michigan Speedway, enjoyed the 100-mile race.

"It's always fun when you know you're racing with 11 other cars that are just as even as yours," Stewart said. "We got into second and I was a little bit optimistic the three of us (Unser and Hornish) were going to break away when they got two-wide behind us and got a big gap there. But it didn't take long to squash that idea in my mind when they got a big run and came right back at us. I knew Unser was a good partner up front. When you're following the guy that's won the most IROC races in history, he knows how to stay up there and he knows how to lead. Staying behind him was good and having Hornish behind us kind of made it interesting. Hornish was able to give us a lot of steam and big momentum and a couple of good pushes toward the end and that helped us win this thing."

The International Race of Champions’ 26th season will resume April 27th at California Speedway in Fontana, CA. The Pennzoil World of Outlaws Series will be in the middle of a double-feature event at Knoxville Raceway, where last Lasoski has won seven track championships and two Knoxville Nationals titles.

- WoO

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About this article
Series IROC , World of Outlaws
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Sterling Marlin , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Jack Sprague , Danny Lasoski , Steve Kinser , Al Unser , Sam Hornis