Champion Tony Stewart still chasing first Daytona 500 win

Three-time Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart
(Photo from Stewarts’ twitter account)

When most NASCAR fans speak of Tony Stewart, usually one of the first comments you hear is “he can win in any division, on any racetrack.” With that statement proving true throughout Stewart’s thirteen years in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series, along with his third and most recent 2011 championship, Tony has proven he is one of NASCAR’s most successful drivers.

However, the word ‘irony‘ comes to mind when considering Stewart has three summer-time wins at the famous Daytona track in ’05, ’06 and 09, yet a coveted Daytona 500 win remains elusive within his NASCAR career since 1999. Winning three summer races at Daytona is remarkable when you realize, Stewart is one of only a few Cup drivers to achieve this feat in the track’s history, including Richard Petty with three, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough and Fireball Roberts with four and David Pearson with an amazing five wins, contributing to their legendary status. 

With less than 30 laps to go Tony Stewart 
has a wild ride in the 2001 Daytona 500
(photo from Racing on the Edge)

Tony Stewart’s luck with Daytona’s season opener, known as the great American race, is reminiscent of Dale Earnhardt, Sr., who won his first Daytona 500 in 1998, just three years prior to his death in 2001. In 2001 it appeared Stewart was in the mix to contend with a shot to win the Daytona 500 until a crash sent him end over end causing a left shoulder injury and taking away his chance at winning. Sadly the life of NASCAR legend, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was also taken on the same day. 

In 2002 Stewart again appeared to have a great car throughout speedweeks and was a favorite to win the 500. But with only two laps into the race, his engine let go, forcing him to settle for a 43rd place finish. Stewart went on to rebound in the same season and win his first Sprint Cup championship.

Once more Stewart looked as though he was in his best situation to finally win the 500 in 2004. However, his dream again vanished when a last lap pass by Dale Earnhardt Jr. left Stewart to finish second, despite drafting help from future 2004 champion, Kurt Busch

Tony Stewart finishes 3rd 
in 2008 Daytona 500
(photo from
In 2008 Tony was poised yet again to win the 500, when the former Penske team of Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman passed Stewart and former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and drafting partner Kyle Busch for the win. Stewart   refers to that race as “the most frustrating of his career.” 
Tony had yet another chance to win the Daytona 500 in 2011.   On the final restart, Stewart was on the outside of the front row with Mark Martin behind him. But when the checkered flag waved, Trevor Bayne made history, as the youngest Daytona 500 winner. Stewart would wind up thirteenth after trouble on the final restart. 

With the 2012 Daytona 500 just weeks away, fans wonder will it be more of the same for Stewart? Will it actually take twenty years of trying to make his dream a reality? Or will Stewarts’ historic 2011 momentum swing his way for him to finally win his first Daytona 500? 

Written by Stephen McCall and Sharon Burton 

One thought on “Champion Tony Stewart still chasing first Daytona 500 win

  1. Thanks Stephen, this is an interesting point to ponder going into the 2012 season with the reigning 2011 Champion, Tony Stewart. Drawing the parallel to Dale Earnhardt, Sr. is great – another great racer with a lot of drive to win – finding the Daytona 500 to be elusive. Although, I know some are beginning to wonder if winning the Daytona 500 dooms a driver to a 'less than desired' remainder of the season. Just Sayin'….food for thought!

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