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Eric Peterson, Published June 22 2010

Red River Valley Speedway: Big name, small track

Tony Stewart may be a two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, but he doesn’t think that makes him the favorite in West Fargo.

“I’m the underdog because these guys run here every week,” said Stewart, who met with the media Monday at the Red River Valley Speedway.

Stewart will be racing a Late Model on Wednesday at the RRVS. It will be the first time Stewart has raced in North Dakota.

“That’s the thing about dirt racing,” he said.

“The guys that run here every week, they know what to look for. They know what the track is going to do. … It doesn’t mean we’re not looking forward to try and win the race, but that’s part of the challenge. That’s what makes it fun.”

Around 6,500 tickets were sold as of late Monday, leaving more than 1,500 tickets available.

“We’re lucky to be able to bring Tony here for the people in the state that want to see him,” said Donny Schatz, who drives for Stewart on the World of Outlaws sprint car circuit.

“This part of the country hasn’t had this type of an event before. It’s a big event for us as promoters. We’re just happy to be a part of it.”

Danny Schatz, Donny’s father, took control of the track this summer.

“Having Tony come is a plus for us,” Danny said.

Stewart said his friendship with the Schatz family is a main reason he decided to race at RRVS.

“When Donny and Danny told me they were going to be a part of the speedway this year it was like ‘Just let us know what we can do to help,’ ” Stewart said.

“Donny’s a buddy of mine. He’s my driver, but at the same time he’s a good friend. That’s what friends do for each other.”

Stewart is a dirt track promoter himself. He owns three dirt tracks in the Midwest, including Eldora Speedway, located near Rossburg, Ohio.

“We want him to critique us,” Donny Schatz said of Stewart. “Hopefully, he can help us get the surface where we want it.”

Stewart estimates he’s already raced in about 40 states and is excited to add North Dakota to the list because of his love for dirt track racing. He embraces the challenge of trying to compete with drivers on their home track.

“It makes you take a lot of pride if you have a good night and beat the local guys that do this every week,” Stewart said. “You take a lot of pride in that because you realize you are going up against guys who are at the top of your game.”

Stewart said he competes in 12-15 dirt track races a year, working around his NASCAR schedule. Stewart is ranked 10th this season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings.

Donny Schatz doesn’t see Stewart being an underdog come Wednesday night.

“I’d be putting money on Tony if it was me because he can drive a wheel barrow even if it has flat tires. It’s going to be fun,” Donny Schatz said.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513. Peterson’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com.