Parity again reigns supreme at Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown
The 2016 Winter Heat Sprint Car Showdown is in the books, and in the final analysis, the second version looked a like the inaugural event in 2015, in that parity was the overriding theme.
In 2015 five different drivers visited victory lane, and in 2016 four different drivers picked up the feature event hardware and paychecks.
“It just goes to show you how well matched the competition is,” said Greg Burgess, director of operations at Cocopah Speedway, home of the Winter Heat. “We had the best sprint car drivers in the world here with us for nine days, and the fact that four different drivers each won a feature event, with Shane Stewart winning two of course, demonstrates how evenly matched they all were.”
Danny “The Dude” Lasoski, from Dover, Mo., won the final night’s feature event on Saturday.
The Winter Heat, which started on New Year’s Day and drew 47 race teams from across the country and Canada, saw Dale Blaney win the opening feature event, followed by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Larson’s win on the second night. Shane Stewart then won the rain-postponed feature event on Wednesday night, passing Larson for the lead in the closing laps, and won again on Friday night, becoming the first driver to win two feature events in the same Winter Heat.
When it was all over, Stewart also won the Winter Heat series championship.
Lasoski, who was the defending series champion, might have been the first driver to win two feature events in the same Winter Heat, but got passed late by Stewart while leading the Friday night race.
He didn’t let that happen Saturday, but it was close.
Leading since the third lap, Lasoski seemed to be in firm control until Darryn Pittman, wheelman for Kasey Kahne Racing, caught Lasoski and appeared to be in position to make the pass for the lead late in the race.
“I wasn’t going to let that happen twice,” said Lasoski, who got a glimpse of Pittman and then raced even harder, pulling away to seal the deal. “I knew what I did last night was completely driver error. We had a really good race car tonight. Hopefully we can come back next year.”
Stewart, meanwhile, after being one of the strongest drivers in the field since the opening night, struggled on Saturday. The cause was a motor that went sour and his crew hustled to install a new power plant, getting the job done moments before Stewart had to roll out for the first of two “B” mains.
In the “B” main Stewart finished second behind Rico Abreu, and had to line up 19th on the grid for the feature event. Stewart then went to work and made it all the way to seventh before the checkered flag.
The drive, although it wasn’t good enough for a win, was good enough to give Stewart the series championship.
“We didn’t really change a whole lot from our package that we had last year,” said Stewart, referring to 2015 when he didn’t win a feature event.
“The main thing was we came here and raced. We got ourselves back in the groove. I think this will help us going to Florida (in February for the start the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series season).” Stewart finished second in the 2015 World of Outlaws championship standings.
Blaney finished second in the Winter Heat series point standings and Pittman was third.