AMERICAN champion Shane Stewart believes he is better positioned for an assault on Australian sprintcar features this summer.
Stewart, 37, will begin his seventh campaign Down Under in round five of the Sprintcar Racing Association of Victoria (SRA) series at Premier Speedway tonight.
The Oklahoma native has again teamed with Western Australia-based Monte Motor-sport, run by Luch Monte and crew chief Kim Buswell.
The partnership began last season, but Stewart only began to reap the rewards late in the World Series Sprintcar (WSS) season.
He made the B main at the Lucas Oil Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic and won the last two WSS rounds to finish second overall.
Stewart, the 2010 Classic champion, said he was more confident of success heading into his second year with Monte Motorsport.
“I think so, I really do. We’ve got great backing and Kim has developed a new type of engine, a KRE engine. I’m excited to see how that thing runs,” he said.
“We have the knowledge and expertise to win (the Classic) again. You’ve got to have a little bit of luck and things have to fall in your lap.
“But you also have to put yourself in a position and I haven’t been able to do that the last couple of years.”
Stewart is in Australia a week earlier than usual. He will use the SRA Victoria round as preparation for the WSS, which begins on Boxing Day.
He described his 2013 season in the US as “up and down”, racing five different cars during a scattered year.
The highlight was a fifth Knoxville 360 Nationals crown and he made the final of the Knoxville 410 Nationals.
But he rued missed opportunities in the World of Outlaws series.
“Weird things happened. One time we ran out of gas, another time we had a flat tyre, stuff you have no control over as a driver,” he said.
The outlook for Stewart’s US return in mid-March, however, is promising.
He has secured a drive with Kyle Larson’s new sprintcar team.
“To be the guy they take is definitely special for me,” he said. “Kyle talked to me over a year ago, said when he was in a situation to do something, he’d keep me in mind. He’s a man of his word.”
Round five of the SRA series has attracted 72 nominations, believed to be a record.
A further 49 formula 500 drivers will contest the Jack Willsher Cup, also a record.
Premier Speedway general manager David Mills said the numbers reflected well on the sport.
“A couple of years ago we took a punt on running so close to Christmas, but a lot of punters were looking for something to do,” he said.
“With the World Series starting (in Adelaide) on Boxing Day, a lot of teams are in our neck of the woods heading that way.”