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Stewart’s absence from fair blamed on Daytona delay

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The Bartholomew County 4-H Fair didn’t draw as many spectators for Wednesday night’s TQ Midget race as last year, and for that, it can blame it on the rain.

Saturday’s Florida rain, to be exact.

The rain that caused Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway to be postponed until Sunday delayed Tony Stewart’s planned mini-vacation to the Bahamas. Stewart is scheduled to be back in Charlotte for an appearance this afternoon, so making it to Columbus for the second year in a row would have been difficult.

“His schedule is so crazy,” said Ronnie Combs, who won with Stewart’s TQ midget. “Like he told me a couple weeks ago, if there was one hiccup, it would probably be over with. I knew when I was sitting there watching Daytona, once it got rain-delayed until the next day, I figured it was probably going to hurt this night.”

The grandstand wasn’t as packed as last year, when about 2,500 saw Stewart race on the track where he grew up racing. But not everyone came just to see Stewart.

“I came because I love watching racing,” said Michael England, 20, of Westport. “If he was here, that would be cool because he’s the hometown hero, but still, I get to watch racing. I’m fine with that. I love racing.”

Allen Barr of Columbus drove race cars for 52 years. He brought his grandson, Owen Barr, 12, of North Vernon to Wednesday’s event.

“I would have liked to see (Stewart),” Allen Barr said.

Some of the drivers were hoping to test their skills against Stewart. Columbus’ Matt Arrington, who was in last year’s event, figured he’d have a better chance this year.

“I was looking forward to getting to run with him again,” Arrington said. “Last year, we didn’t do as well as we wanted to. I’ve never run wheel to wheel with him before.”

Jen Mascaro of South Jordan, Utah, flew in to see Combs race. She met Combs a few years ago at a casino in Lawrenceburg, and he introduced her to Stewart.

Mascaro was hoping to see Stewart but was even happier to see Combs.

“It’s more Ronnie,” Mascaro said. “It’s always a bonus to see Tony wherever you can. But I’m glad to see Ronnie race.”

Combs entered Wednesday’s race ranked fourth in the Midwest TQ League point standings. He has won five feature races this season.

But if Stewart had made an appearance, Combs would have become part of the pit crew.

“There’s one person I’ll get out of the car for, and that’s him,” Combs said.

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