Traditionally, the dominoes begin to fall in “Silly Season” for the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series, a day or two after the completion of the World Finals in early November. This year, “Silly Season,” which is the term used to describe the changing of drivers and teams for the next season, began a week before the series heads to Charlotte to put a wrap on the 2018 campaign.
First, it was announced that Shane Stewart and the Kyle Larson Racing team would be parting ways at the end of the season. Less than two hours later, the CJB Motorsports team, announced that they were parting ways with David Gravel and had hired Stewart to pilot their machine in 2019.
Stewart spent five seasons with Kyle Larson Racing, which began as Larson Marks Racing in 2014. The team ran a “True Outlaw” schedule that season, earning their first World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series win in May at the famed Eldora Speedway in Ohio. They also were victorious on a preliminary night during the Knoxville Nationals and at Willamette Speedway in Oregon.
“I can’t thank Shane enough for everything he has put into this team over the last five years,” said Kyle Larson. “When Justin [Marks] and I started Larson Marks Racing in 2014, we knew Shane was our guy. He is one of the best drivers on and off the track and we knew he would bring success to our team. We have accomplished a lot over the past five seasons and have won a lot of big races. I wish him nothing but the best in the future.”
In their first full season on the World of Outlaws trail in 2015, Stewart and the Larson Marks Racing squad won nine races and finished second in points, which was a career-high for Stewart. Among the victories was a $50,000 triumph in the Kings Royal at Eldora, which marked the biggest win of Stewart’s career. The team won eight times in 2016, but slipped to sixth in points. Last year, Stewart again won eight times and finished fifth in the standings. This year, Stewart has one with and is fifth in points.
“First off, I have to thank Kyle (Larson) and Justin (Marks) for giving me five great years behind the wheel of the (No.) 2 car,” said Stewart. “As a driver there is nothing better than being able to compete and win at the highest level of sprint car racing. We have enjoyed some big wins together and never finished worse than sixth in the championship point standings. That in itself says a lot about all the guys that have worked really hard for me. I am forever grateful for this opportunity and I have to say a big thank you to everyone.”
Gravel, who joined the CJB Motorsports team in 2016, had a career-year in 2017, winning 18 World of Outlaws A-Feature events and 20 overall races, including a preliminary night at the Knoxville Nationals, which saw the young driver earn a perfect 500-point score. A feat that had not been accomplished since 1992, the same year the young driver was born. Gravel also won the National Open at the famed Williams Grove Speedway in Pennsylvania twice, while driving for CJB Motorsports. Gravel won a total of 32 A-Feature events with the Outlaws aboard the No. 5 for the team.
“It was a good ride,” Gravel said. “We put up some really good number. This year just wasn’t the same. I really want to thank Chad (Clemens-car owner) and Barry (Jackson-crew chief) for giving me this opportunity and propelling me forward in my career. Our perfect night at the (Knoxville) Nationals will always stand out as a good memory for me. Another one is winning the National Open. Getting that one for Chad and Barry was very special since they are from that area.”
Stewart, who was the 2005, Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award winner, with the World of Outlaws, will be teamed with veteran crew chief Barry Jackson for the 2019 campaign. The two-time ASCS champion has 33 career A-Feature wins with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series.
“Shane Stewart is a well-known driver throughout the world,” shared Clemens. “From what he’s done with ASCS and in Australia to helping Kyle Larson Racing get off the ground, he’s proven time and time again that he is a first class talent and team member. I know I speak on behalf of our team and partners when I say we are excited to have Shane join us in pursuit of a World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series title, a Knoxville Nationals title and much more.”
The World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series is set to compete at Port Royal Speedway in Pennsylvania this weekend in the Tuscarora 50, which will pay $51,000-to-win. The series wraps up the 2018 season next weekend in the World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte in Concord, N.C.