BIXBY, Okla. – In his 37 years of racing, Shane Stewart never wavered from two goals: maximize every opportunity in a race car and handle each relationship outside of it with great care.
The first is rather inherent to any race car driver. The second, meanwhile, was something Stewart always strived for, no matter the circumstance or what there was to win or lose.
There will likely be few, if any more, opportunities in a race car for Stewart to maximize again, as the 44-year-old recently announced his retirement in order to take ownership of Oklahoma’s Port City Raceway with his former car owner, Kevin Rudeen.
Stewart will also serve as the track promoter and naturally hopes to help young racers try to find their way, particularly in Tulsa, Oklahoma’s rich micro landscape.
“There’s a lot of unknowns when it comes to the promoter hat,” Stewart said. “There’s a lot I have to learn. I’m excited to venture down that road. Racing has been great to me. I feel like it’s a way for me to give back to the younger generation. Maybe I can have a small part in grooming them to be successful race car drivers, if that’s what they want to be.”
It is only fitting Stewart seamlessly slides into the next chapter of his life alongside one of those valued relationships made over a decorative racing career. A scenario like this seemed inevitable for a guy like Stewart, the forever model of class and character.
But over the past three years, as his established place with the World of Outlaws disintegrated into something more of a journeyman, Stewart began to question what life after driving would look like.
“I always had it in the back of my mind, that at some point here, pretty quick, I’m going to have to start thinking about what my next moves are going to be,” Stewart said as his driving opportunities dwindled in 2020.
The thought didn’t occupy his mind because of a waning heart or desire, or even skill. The thought grew louder by the week as more became out of Stewart’s control, such as a lack of funding and simply being 44.
“I really wasn’t ready to retire this year,” said Stewart, who continued his nature of maximizing opportunities in a race car.
In 54 races split among five different teams – Bernie Stuebgen, Sides Motorsports, Two C Racing, Heffner Racing, and Jason Johnson Racing – Stewart picked up a pair of wins and finished in the top five 19 times.
It was Stewart’s highest top-five rate since 2017, when he finished fifth in the World of Outlaws points with nine wins and 31 top fives across 86 races.
Both of Stewart’s wins were emphatic and feel-good moments that happened ever so timely. The first was night one of the World of Outlaws Summer Nationals at Williams Grove Speedway with Stuebgen, a relieving and gratifying moment that snapped a 13-month winless drought.
The second was along the lines of storybook, as Stewart raced to victory at Lakeside Speedway in a one-off appearance in the Jason Johnson No. 41, the car his late, longtime buddy drove for so many years.
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