By ADAM SHINDER
Recorder Sports Staff
FONDA -- In his second visit to Fonda Speedway, three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart moved another step up the podium.
He simply ran out of time to make it all the way to the top.
After finishing third when he visited the Track of Champions with the University of Northwestern Ohio All-Star Circuit of Champions 410 sprint car series in 2012, Stewart looked resigned to the same fate when he returned with the series Thursday night, as he was running third in the waning laps before a bold outside move with two laps to go that got him past Cap Henry for second.
However, while Stewart was charging hard, he simply didn't have enough trips around Fonda's half-mile oval left to reel in Danny Dietrich -- who led from the moment Fonda modified division ace and early leader Stewart Friesen exited the event when he hit the wall on lap five -- and mark his return to Fonda with a victory.
Stewart, on his annual racing vacation during a break in the Sprint Cup schedule, said he did use his experience from last year's trip to Fonda to help him improve Thursday night, though he admitted in an on-track interview that he still finds the fabled circuit tricky.
"I still can't figure out if its got seven or eight turns," Stewart said.
"There's nothing like this place," he added. "It's a very unique track."
Stewart wasn't the only Sprint Cup driver in town Thursday, as veteran Dave Blaney -- whose career in sprint cars dates back to the 1980s -- also raced with the UNOH All-Stars and finished a bit up the track from Dietrich, Stewart and Henry.
When asked why he'd choose to spend the break between Sunday's Sprint Cup race in New Hampshire and next week's Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis racing sprint cars rather than relaxing on the beach, Stewart had a simple reply.
"I don't have a wife that makes me go on vacation," he said. "I've got a German shepherd, and he doesn't give a crap where I go as long as I take him with."
Also on the card Thursday, pro stock driver Kenny Martin scored an emotional win in the eighth annual Hondo Classic in memory of pro stock driver Hondo Carpenter, taking control after an early restart and cruising to victory ahead of Rocky Warner.
"This is definitely the highlight of my career, to do it for Hondo," said Martin, who had part of his No. 93 car painted to pay tribute to the late Carpenter's No. 9. "I'm so proud to be able to do it for him."