Tony Stewart, a 49-time winner and three-time champion of the NASCAR Cup Series, has been selected as an inductee into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022, that was announced on Tuesday. The induction banquet will take place on June 4 in Knoxville, Iowa.
Stewart joins Bob Frey, Eric Gordon, Terry Gray and Tim Green as the driver inductees for the Class of 2022. Ralph Heintzelman, Walter T. Ross, Dennis Roth, Johnny Gibson, Jack Kromer, Robin Miller and Walter “Slim” Rutherford will also be inducted, under various categories.
The Columbus native is the owner and operator of Tony Stewart Racing (TSR), which has competed and won in multiple different divisions of dirt racing, collecting championships in multiple divisions of sprint cars.
TSR has captured seven owners championships in the USAC National Sprint Car Series with drivers JJ Yeley, Jay Drake, Josh Wise and Levi Jones, as well as five championships in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series with Donny Schatz. The organization currently fields a full-time entry for Schatz in the WoO Sprint Car Series.
As a competitor, Stewart has spent the majority of his racing career involved in the sprint car world, racing in multiple divisions before, during and after his tenure in NASCAR. In 1995, Stewart became the first driver to capture the USAC Triple Crown in a single season, by capturing the USAC National Midget Championship, USAC Silver Crown Series and USAC National Sprint Car Series Championship.
Stewart is the sole owner of Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, a half-mile dirt track that hosts the Kings Royal, one of the largest and most prestigious sprint car events in the United States.
In 2015, Stewart made his first venture into ownership of a racing series, purchasing the All-Star Circuit of Champions. Eventually, Stewart entered an additional agreement for the Renegade Sprint Series to merge with his newly-purchased series, to run under the all-star name.
Chili Bowl finale tonight
The 36th Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals from Tulsa, Oklahoma, will take place tonight.
Keith Kunz Motorsports of Columbus went 3 for 3 in early-week qualifying nights with Tanner Carrick winning on Monday, Buddy Kofoid on Tuesday and Rico Abreu on Wednesday.
The finale will air on MAVTV Motorsports Network and the streaming service MAVTVPLUS beginning at 8:30 p.m. tonight.
Huntley passes away
Former sprint car driver Kevin Huntley of Bloomington passed away on Jan. 8. He was 56.
Huntley won 44 All Star Circuit of Champions feature events during his career, placing him ninth on the series’ all-time winners list. Huntley is also a two-time All-Star Champion, having won the title in 1992 and 1993. He tied for the 1993 Championship with Frankie Kerr.
He was a six-time USAC National feature winning driver across three decades in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
Affectionately known as “The Pup,” Huntley began his sprint car racing career on the bullrings near his Bloomington home with a sprint car purchased with the help of his father, Rex, and three-time USAC National Sprint Car champion Sheldon Kinser.
In 1985, Huntley made his USAC National Sprint Car debut, finishing 19th at Paragon Speedway. He captured his first career sprint car victory on the local level during the 1986 season at Bloomington Speedway, and ultimately capped off the successful campaign with dual track championships at both Bloomington and at Lawrenceburg Speedway.
Branching out the following season, Huntley took on the USAC National Sprint Car series in 1987, winning his first series event for car owner Terry Winterbotham at Oregon, Wisconsin’s Impact Speedway en route to a career-best 4th place finish in the championship standings. He’d follow up in 1988 with a 9th place result in the final points.
Nearly a full decade later, Huntley scored his second career USAC National Sprint Car win, this time for team owner Dennis Stone at Rossburg, Ohio’s Eldora Speedway, the half-mile dirt oval in which we won five of his six career USAC features at. He’d win twice more in USAC competition at Eldora in 1997, both for car owner Rick Daugherty, during a June matinee Sprint show, and for his first and only career Silver Crown score in September’s 4-Crown Nationals.
In 2004, Huntley earned the most lucrative triumph of his USAC Sprint Car career, fending off none other than Sammy Swindell to pocket $50,000 in the Mopar Thunder at Eldora for car owner Dan Roberts. Huntley and Roberts teamed up once again in 2005 to snare his final career USAC Sprint victory, in June of that season at Eldora.
He made 34 starts in his USAC Silver Crown career between 1992 and 2008, while his USAC National Sprint Car career spanned from 1985-2008, before stepping away to devote his main focus on his growing excavation, composting and recycling businesses.
Huntley, however, was not completely absent from the driver’s seat in the following years and returned to Bloomington in 2015 to win a RaceSaver 305 Sprint Car feature, promptly retiring in Victory Lane at the venue where he won his first career feature at 30 years prior.
Huntley finished third in the All-Star points in 1991 and rose to the top the following season, beating Kerr for the title by just four points. Huntley won 14 features and the Ohio Speedweek title en route to the championship.
The following year (1993), Kerr led Huntley by 21 points entering the All-Star Final at Eldora. Kerr surrendered two laps in the race and Huntley won the race, creating a tie for the title.
“I don’t know if I knew where I needed to finish,” Huntley said at the time, “but I passed Danny Smith to take the lead, and the yellow came out. I’ve replayed this race in my head a million times. I still remember running those laps like it was yesterday. I should have beat him. I just got a little too zealous. I probably knew that if I won, I would win the points, and I probably let that take me a bit. “
Off the track, Huntley created a successful excavation business and, more recently, Green Earth, a composting and recycling business.
James Essex writes a motorsports notebook for The Republic. Send comments to [email protected]