Throughout his racing career, the expectations surrounding Marco Andretti have been enormous, and the weight of them increasingly beared down on the third-generation racer as he tried to reach the same category as his grandfather Mario and his father Michael. But finally, Marco Andretti can stand alongside his famous grandfather and accomplished father, as he is a champion himself.
In the Camping World SRX Series season finale at Sharon Speedway, Chase Elliott was able to drive past Tony Stewart in the final laps and then hold him off to earn his second SRX win in as many races in the series. But behind Elliott, the race for the championship turned into a battle of attrition, as a series of late-race accidents left Marco Andretti having to get his car repaired and drive back up through the field just enough to earn the 2022 SRX Championship by two points over Ryan Newman.
Andretti's SRX championship is the first championship for the Andretti family since Michael Andretti won the CART IndyCar World Series Championship all the way back in 1991. Though he did not score a victory in the six SRX races this season, Andretti was able to win the title by virtue of his performances in the heats as well as several runner-up finishes throughout the season.
SRX at Sharon Speedway results
- #9 - Chase Elliott
- #14 - Tony Stewart
- #5 - Matt Kenseth
- #1 - Ryan Hunter-Reay
- #18 - Bobby Labonte
- #69 - Greg Biffle
- #12 - Ryan Blaney
- #39 - Ryan Newman
- #98 - Marco Andretti
- #3 - Paul Tracy
- #6 - Tony Kanaan
- #10 - Dave Blaney
- #15 - Michael Waltrip
In the first half of Saturday night's race, it looked as though the race for the championship would take place at the front of the field, with Andretti trying to run down title rival Ryan Newman while Bobby Labonte put himself in the picture as well. Then, on a Lap 32 restart, everything changed.
Andretti attempted a three-wide divebomb for the lead entering Turn 1 that went poorly, as it spun Newman around and caused major right front fender damage to Andretti's car. After pulling off to the pits to get his car repaired, Andretti was making his way back through the field when he got collected in a crash involving Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dave Blaney and Newman again.
Andretti pulled off to get his damage repaired once again, then drove up to ninth by the checkered flag despite sustaining some physical damage of his own.
"I broke my wrist in that last little thing. I got my thumb caught in the wheel. So that was a painful last couple of laps," Andretti told CBS Sports. "But I just wanted to cover and finish right where I needed to finish, and we were able to do that. This thing was pretty robust tonight."
As Andretti had to grit it out just to finish the race, Elliott used the outside line to make his way around Stewart and then drove away from one of his old racing heroes in the final laps to win the SRX finale for the second year in a row.
"To sit there and race on dirt with one of my heroes there in Tony Stewart and throw a couple sliders with him (means the most)," Elliott told CBS Sports. "Obviously this a little different than the open-wheel stuff -- but just knowing how good he is at this stuff and being able to dice it up and race with him ... I actually thought he was better than me that run before, and then I was able to watch him on the top and finally get a couple things going there."
Elliott was one of two NASCAR Cup Series interlopers in the field, as Ryan Blaney also made the trip from nearby Pocono Raceway to compete on the Hartford Township, Ohio dirt track owned by his family and father Dave Blaney. Despite crashing early in the first Heat -- knocking him out until the main event -- Ryan was able to win the Battle of the Blaneys by finishing seventh after his father got involved in a late-race crash.
Elliott's win and Andretti's championship wraps up the 2022 Camping World SRX Series season, which saw five different winners across six races. Tony Stewart led the series in wins, taking the checkered flag both at South Boston on asphalt and at I-55 on dirt. While NASCAR drivers like Stewart, Elliott, Newman and Labonte won four out of five races, Andretti was able to take the championship for the series' IndyCar contingent, which also enjoyed a win by Helio Castroneves in the season opener at Five Flags Speedway.
While most of the SRX field will go back to their day jobs -- whether that's racing, farm work or beer brewing -- Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney will head back to Pocono for tomorrow's M&M's Fan Appreciation 400, as they resume their pursuit of a NASCAR Cup Series championship.