|Stewart celebrates in victory lane at Daytona
Photo – Getty Images
By Jason Schultz
Tony Stewart took the checkers for the third time this season when he crossed the line first at Daytona Saturday Night.
Stewart survived all the wrecks of the night to win his eighteenth NASCAR event at Daytona.
Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle completely dominated the race, leading over half the laps combined. They were dead even with Stewart taking the white flag and then they got involved in a wreck coming out of turn four. Stewart didn’t lead until the end of the race came but those were the laps he needed to lead.
After the news of A.J Allmendinger failing sample Test A of a random drug test, Sam Hornish Jr arrived in Daytona to start the No.22 entry and he ran most of the race.
The race started out calm with Greg Biffle pushing Matt Kenseth to the lead.
Bill Elliott, running up front for the first half of the race was really impressive for him coming in on a one race deal and making history with Turner Motorsports, making their first Sprint Cup start.
After the first round of green-flag pit stops, Martin Truex Jr cycled through as the leader.
On lap 49, Matt Kenseth pushed teammate Greg Biffle to the lead.
Halfway through the race were caution free and Biffle led followed by Kenseth, Kahne, Newman and Kyle Busch.
On lap 80, the second round of green-flag pit stops began. A lap later, the first caution came out for Sam Hornish Jr who cut down a tire and spun out on the backstretch.
Kenseth won the race off pit road, Newman made contact with Kahne causing Gordon and Newman to spin into the back of Brad Keselowski on pit road.
The next yellow-flag came out on lap 91 when Kurt Busch turned into Trevor Bayne and got into the turn two wall. Busch suffered moderate damage and needed to make some major repairs to the car. Those repairs didn’t allow Busch to keep up with the pack and he was lapped on lap 102.
The first big wreck of the night came out on lap 125, when drivers were attempting to get on to pit road. Drivers checked up and made contact when Martin Truex Jr got into the back of Jimmie Johnson and turned Johnson down into the inside wall of the short-shoot between turn four and the tri-oval. Then more cars started to slide in.
Bill Elliott slid in and tagged Jeff Gordon, who was trying to get on to pit road. Gordon spun in the tri-oval grass along with Michael Waltrip, Joey Logano and Regan Smith.
The dominant duo of the day was broken up during this caution when they both attempted to get on to pit road. They both slowed and lost their track position as Biffle pitted when pit road was closed, earning him a penalty.
Smith and Elliott went to the garage with damage.
Jimmie Johnson commented after the wreck about his luck at Daytona by saying “Not the best of luck at this superspeedway.”
On the restart, Tony Stewart was the leader. On lap 145, Brad Keselowski got loose and spun on the backstretch bringing out the caution.
The second big wreck of the day brought out the caution with eight to go. Denny Hamlin was attempting to switch lanes when he got loose and turned up the track just past the tri-oval. Unfortunately, he turned up into the field and into this teammate, Kyle Busch.
Multiple other cars were involved in the wreck including, David Ragan, David Reutimann, Marcos Ambrose, Paul Menard, Casey Mears, Trevor Bayne, Juan Pablo Montoya, David Gilliland, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Dave Blaney and Martin Truex Jr.
This caution set up a green-white-checker finish. The race only needed one green-white-checker finish to determine the race winner.
Kenseth and Biffle took the lead as soon as the green-flag fell for the restart and Kasey Kahne pushed Tony Stewart even with the Roush-Fenway Racing duo. When Jeff Burton got up into Kasey Kahne and caused Kahne and Stewart to separate, Stewart powered ahead and took the lead. He got up in front of the Roush-Fenway Racing duo and led until Kahne got back behind him and the tandems raced side by side.
Kahne pushed Stewart ahead when a wreck involving Biffle unfolded behind them. Kahne then got involved in the wreck and Stewart pulled ahead. Stewart crossed the line first once again in the July Daytona race.
The wreck behind them involved almost all of the remaining cars. The wreck started when Biffle got hit by Kenseth in the exit of turn four and Biffle turned down into Harvick.
Other drivers started to pile-in and the track was almost blocked. The drivers involved in the wreck included; Dale Earnhardt Jr, Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, David Reutimann, Terry Labonte, Kyle Busch, Travis Kvapil and Aric Almirola.
Stewart celebrated in victory lane for the first time since Fontana in March.
Stewart said that he was “just trying to pull the 17 and 16 apart” on the final laps.
Kenseth was very disappointed when he didn’t win after leading 89 laps, he ended up finishing third.
Many drivers had great runs like Jeff Burton, who got his best finish of the season of second. Michael Waltrip had his best run in years with a finish of eighth. Bobby Labonte survived for a season-best ninth place finish. Keselowski overcame a spin and damage to finish sixth.
The race for the second wild card spot had a new driver take it over – the driver finished fourth and is Joey Logano.
A classic Daytona race ended with a familiar driver, Tony Stewart, in victory lane. Stewart is now tied with Brad Keselowski for the most wins this season.
Stewart is now in full-force to go after his second consecutive and fourth championship.
Next week the Sprint Cup Series storms up to Loudon, New Hampshire for a tough race at the “Magic Mile.”
Race Results and Point Standings via Nascar.com