After watching his father Mike race supermodifieds at dirt tracks around their Tulsa, Okla., home, Shane Stewart started racing quarter-midgets at age six. A year later, he earned his first win.
At age 12, Stewart moved to micro midgets. He raced at Oklahoma’s Port City Raceway, a training ground for several highly-successful sprint car racers.
At 16, he climbed into a sprint car and spent the next 28 years building an impressive resume that includes wins in many of sprint car racing’s marquee events, as well as two ASCS National championships and 36 World of Outlaws feature victories – placing him 19th on the series’ all-time win list behind his lifelong mentor, Andy Hillenburg, who earned 42.
On Dec. 29, Stewart issued a press release stating that he would be hanging up his helmet after partnering with former car owner Kevin Rudeen in the purchase of Port City Raceway.
Twenty-one days later, Stewart was behind the wheel of a rental truck, moving his family from Indianapolis to his hometown of Tulsa.
Stewart has enjoyed a long and highly-successful sprint car racing career, and we sat down with him for the most recent edition of Sprint Car & Midget Magazine to discuss his years behind the wheel and the next chapter of his career in racing.
SC&M: What went into your decision to retire from the driving side and purchase Port City Raceway with Kevin Rudeen?
SHANE STEWART: Well, the last couple years I didn’t know where I was gonna be, and that was getting frustrating for me. You know, the days of just showing up with your helmet bag were getting fewer and fewer between. And, now you’ve gotta show up with a little bit of money, and it was hard for me to wrap my head around that. Trying to run down money for a team when I, personally, was only gonna make so much…you know, if I had a good season. And, that was just hard for me to wrap my head around.
Then I thought, well, maybe I can start my own team. And I probably could have. But, even with that, you know, if I was to get to put together a strong team, I felt like I was still gonna be in the same boat four or five years down the road. And, I was somewhat complaining to Andy Hillenburg about what my next steps were gonna be.
And, we started Pit Stop Potty’s, which is a little portable sanitation business – Chad (Boespflug) and I did it – and it wasn’t going as well as I’d have liked or what we had wanted it to be. Obviously, buying that business in the middle of a pandemic wasn’t the best deal. So, that was struggling a little bit. And, Andy said, ‘Well, what about maybe buying Port City?’ And I hadn’t even thought about Port City; didn’t even know that it might be for sale.
And, I knew the owners really well. So, I reached out to them – and that was a good two months ago now, maybe a little bit longer. Once I found out it was for sale, I just felt like it was the right time to start focusing on different things. I’m in my early 40’s and I have a young family. And, I was tired of not knowing what my next steps were gonna be as a driver. And, I felt like I had a really good season last year. We were competitive everywhere we went and raced, and I was thankful for that opportunity with (car owners) Bernie and Betsy (Stuebgen), because it kind of rejuvenated my wanting to be on the road and driving again – I’d had a rough couple years.
But, Port City, when I found out that it was gonna be for sale, I felt like my energy and my focus was starting to be more towards that than it was focusing on being a driver. I felt like I was gonna be in the same boat again next year, not knowing where I was gonna be and who I was gonna be driving for.
SC&M: Both you and your dad have a history with Port City Raceway.
SS: Yeah, well it was good opportunity for me to move back home, which I was excited about. You know, Port City has a great following in the micro scene, and Mike and Megan (Eubanks) and Mike Ross have done a great job of growing the place. I’m getting the track and it’s in good condition, it’s got a great car count on a weekly basis, and I felt like it was a way for me to give back to the sport. You know, it’s given me so much over these years. And, it was good timing. I’ve had people reach out to me this year, and asking me, ‘Are you missing not being in Florida?’ and I tell them, ‘Not even a little bit.’
There’s just a lot to getting a track ready for the season. Obviously, being new ownership with the track, there’s just a lot for (wife) Jenn and I to learn, and so we’ve been busy doing that. And, honestly, I haven’t even thought about Florida. I’ve watched the races on TV, but I haven’t really thought about me missing it. And so, I mean, it’s just more and more clarification to me that it was the right time.
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