Tony Stewart Wins Gatorade Duel at Daytona Race No. 1

Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla (Feb. 23, 2012) - Tony Stewart is familiar with the way to Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway. The three-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion picked up his 17 victory at the famed 2.5-mile superspeedway with a win in today’s Gatorade Duel at Daytona Race No. 1. . The win puts the driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet second on the all-time list of winners at Daytona. He led three times for a total of 21 laps in the 60-lap race to set the field for the 54th running of the Daytona 500.

Other Team Chevy drivers finished as follows: Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard – 2nd; Jeff Burton, No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet – 4th; Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet – 7th; Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet – 10th; Danica Patrick, No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet – 16th (accident); Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Target Chevrolet – 23rd (accident) and Paul Menard, No. 27 Menards/Peak Chevrolet – 24th (accident).

Marcos Ambrose (Ford) and Carl Edwards (Ford) complete the top-five finishers.

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DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET, finished 2nd:

ON TODAY’S RACE: “I thought it was pretty good. I hate to see Danica (Patrick) have trouble. It was a good lick she took, but she seemed pretty tough and came right out of there. The Diet Mountain Dew Chevy was really fast. We always want to get better, and we think we have a couple of things we can improve on and make the car faster. Tony (Stewart) did a great job, and won the race. He always knows how to get up there. You are going to have to beat him to win these things. He is one of the guys that is always going to be there. I feel good about running second, and bringing home a car in one piece. Hopefully we will get through the next couple of days without any troubles as far as we don’t want to pull out a back-up. We want to start the (Daytona) 500 with this car. That has been our goal all week. We were able to race in this race and still take care of our equipment. I am pretty proud.”

THE FANS GO CRAZY WHEN YOU TAKE THE LEAD, DO YOU FEEL THAT ENERGY? “I know we have a lot of followers. You can’t really see what is happening up there. At this place, we are looking in the mirror or out the front so much. You are concerned with what is happening around you. I know we have a lot of followers that get excited. We want to get into the lead as much as we can just for that reason. If the fans weren’t here, and didn’t stand up every time you took the lead, there wouldn’t be a whole lot of point in doing it. Going into the lead wouldn’t be a whole lot of fun; not as much fun as it is now.”

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KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 29 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET, FINISHED 7TH:

ON TODAY’S RACE: “The temperatures are just way too hot; you can’t really race. Everybody is just trying to position themselves for the last lap. The grills are so tight that at 240 degrees in the pack you are just sitting there and you can’t really make a move. That is why everybody was so content to stay single-file. I didn’t really know what to do there at the end. Tony (Stewart) was way out ahead of everybody by himself. I thought he was going to back-up and he didn’t back-up. I just backed up too late.”

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TONY STEWART, NO. 14 OFFICE DEPOT/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET, RACE WINNER:

YOU GOT YOUR CAR IN VICTORY LANE: “Luckily I haven’t tore this one up yet so the guys haven’t had to work as hard as they did on the Shootout car. This Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy has been awesome all weekend. We have a great starting spot for the (Daytona) 500. This thing has been fast so we are hoping to be there at the end on Sunday.”

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JAMIE MCMURRAY, NO. BASS PRO SHOPS/TRACKER BOATS CHEVROLET, FINISHED 10th:

ON TODAY’S RACE: “We weren’t sitting in the right position there at the end. I’m hoping NASCAR will open up the grill a little bit more because it was a little hard to race because you got too hot. If you were trying to push cars early on, it just got too hot. Once you pop that PRV off, it is over. You can’t push the rest of the day. So, I popped mine off a little too early in the race. It is still better than the tandem thing.”

YOU THINK IT IS GOING TO BE LIKE THIS ON SUNDAY? “Oh, for sure. I thought it was cool. We ran two-three-wide and then we got single-file for a little bit, and it was crazy again at the end. To me, if I was a fan, that is what I would see.”

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JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, FINISHED 4TH:

ON TODAY’S RACE: “I think we learned a lot. It’s hard. It is a big challenge to try to separate yourself from the pack. Everybody is trying to separate themselves from the pack and that almost causes some of the wrecks. So, it’s hard. They are borderline too hot. You run too long you get them too hot. It’s just a real challenge.”

IS THIS WHAT IT IS GOING TO BE LIKE ON SUNDAY? “Yes, I think so. I think what you saw today is what you are going to see on Sunday. It’s just hard to make any ground up. You make a move trying to be aggressive and you lose a spot. It is very much going to be ‘a protect your position’ race until you get yourself in the last little bit. Then you are just going to have to go like hell and hope for the best.”

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DANICA PATRICK, NO. 10 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET, INVOLVED IN A LAST LAP CRASH:

IT LOOKED LIKE A VICIOUS HIT WHAT WAS IT LIKE FROM BEHIND THE STEERING WHEEL? “It happened really quickly. I guess you can always imagine when you get down to the end of the race everyone is on each other’s doors really close. It’s just kind of what happens at the end of the race. Unfortunately, I was part of it. I felt like I was having at least a solid race. I worked my way up there at the beginning a little bit; hung around in the front group for a while. I felt like it kind of slowed down I was dragging the brake a little bit just to keep with the pack and not run up to them too quickly. I don’t know if that had any affect. We were just looking to finish to be honest; unfortunately that was not the case.”

BEFORE THE CRASH DID YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE RACING IN THE PACK? “Yeah, I felt good. It was just a matter of getting in the right line with the right people in the fast lane. It was hard to get past that sort of mid-pack range. I felt like if I could have gotten up a little farther it would have been better. Of course running up front is always better (laughs). I feel bummed out. Two corners to go and I got into the wall. Maybe the back-up car will be faster.”

DANICA, WHAT HAPPENED? “I’m guessing those with the jumbotron probably had a better view than what I did from my perspective. The bottom lane was moving in (turns) one and two and I just stayed low and we were making our run down the back all of a sudden I got hit. Everybody is trying to side draft really close obviously and get what they can. Unfortunately, I was the big looser in it all. I don’t know if I could have done anything different. Of course I will go look at the video to see if there is something I could have done. It was a pretty fast and sideways journey so I kind of just braced myself.”

WHAT DID YOU LEARN TODAY OUT THERE RACING IN THE PACK? “I learned a lot. It was a pretty calm race for the most part. Every now and again people get rattled and start moving around. It was pretty calm and I felt really comfortable. I was starting to learn and definitely picking up a lot about side drafting. How it affects you and how it is used so much especially in pack racing. Finding good lanes and just getting used to who moves well towards the front and who doesn’t and trying to pick those right lanes.”

WHAT HAPPENED? “I’m betting that everybody that was watching on TV probably had the best look. From my perspective it was obviously the last lap and the bottom lane started moving well so that is where I was. We were just getting our run down the back and all of a sudden I got hit. I’m betting that somebody also got hit outside of me, is what I’m betting. I’m going to have to look. It was just a chain reaction every person that gets hit, next and next and next. It gets bigger and bigger. It felt like a pretty big hit so I don’t know what it looked like. I’m really just bummed out that we didn’t finish the last two corners. Instead we have a Go Daddy car in the wall and lots of damage and I’m sure a back-up. But, what I said was maybe the back-up car will be faster.”

THE GOOD NEWS IS YOU FINISHED MOST OF THE RACE. WHAT CAN YOU TAKE FROM TODAY INTO SUNDAY? “Definitely, if that would have happened at the beginning it would have been very frustrating to not have that experience. I was definitely picking up a lot about the side drafting and about which lanes move well. How to just pick up the draft in front of me without pushing it away and trying to stay in a nice pocket there. Of course I’m going to go back and I’m going to be asking what I need to do. I’m definitely asking Tony (Stewart) what to do. I think he won right? Did he win? (Media answered yes he did win) I think I have someone good to ask.”

WHAT IS YOUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL GOING INTO SUNDAY? “I feel good, I really feel good. I feel comfortable. I feel confident. I feel like if things fall our way and I can take the experience from today into Sunday. I think it can be a good day. Obviously, things that are out of your control can make it a bad day. But, that is kind of the excitement about racing at Daytona and the excitement about big pack racing.”

REGARDING HER CRASH: “I guess it’s good that it happened today and not on a Saturday or Sunday. That would have meant I crashed in the Nationwide race and that would have been bad. I mean I just got hit. We were just running on the bottom lane and I’m betting it was a chain reaction from the outside it looked like. Guys get so close on their side drafting that they are touching you sometimes and I’m sure that at times, maybe in that situation it was a hitting side draft. It was probably just a chain reaction and I will go look at it and see if I can fix something or change something I am doing out there. Overall, I’m just very disappointed that the car got crashed with two corners to go. It’s not how we wanted to roll into Sunday. We wanted to just be cool calm and collected with no damage. I guess that maybe that back-up car is fast. We weren’t super excited after qualifying. Maybe this is a blessing in big disguise.”

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO HIT THE WALL? “It sucks. You just have to brace yourself. I guess in these situations, I just have to be glad that I’m a small driver and that I’ve got room. I just have to kind of hug it in and let it rip.”

DANICA, WAS IT PRETTY MUCH WHAT YOU EXPECTED? “At times it was much calmer than I expected to be honest. At times when we got single file or just very steady two lane racing it was pretty calm. I felt like I learned a lot. I felt like I learned a lot about the side draft and what to do in those situations and get the most out of it. Obviously, you don’t want to be too much or get into people and things happen.”

SO YOU WERE HAPPY THEN? “Yeah, overall I’m happy. Forgetting the last two corners I’m glad that I finished all those laps to get that experience. It would have been much more disappointing to have done that early on and not have the experience that I did.”

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PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 MENARDS/PEAK CHEVROLET, involved in a multi-car accident on lap nine (9):

WHAT HAPPENED? “It looked like somebody turned (David) Gilliland. This plate racing deal is pretty tough right now. It’s kind of a hybrid of pack drafting and it’s not working out real well.”

WHAT HAPPENED OUT ON THE RACE TRACK? “Somebody turned (David) Gilliland; I saw him get sideways underneath me. I was three lanes up and I tried to clear him and didn’t quite make it. It’s just a product of these rule changes. It’s a mess out there.”

WHAT DID YOU SEE OUT THERE? “Just a product of this hybrid tandem-pack racing. All the rule changes are just making a big mess of what was a pretty good race. I’m hoping to survive on Sunday (Daytona 500.”

DO YOU THINK WE WILL SEE ANYTHING DIFFERENT IN THE 500? “If I say my mind right now; NASCAR is trying to dictate physics. Physics says two cars are going to push and they’re trying to make rule changes to keep us from doing it, so it is kind of a hybrid of pack racing and tandem racing. It is causing a pretty unsafe situation.”

PRETTY FRUSTRATING FOR YOU RIGHT NOW? “Yes, for sure. We tore up two really good race cars not of our doing, and they’re going to tear up a hell of a lot more. They are probably going to blow up a few the way things are right now. I’m concerned we’re not going to finish. It is going to make for us, I think, riding around in the back, and trying to be there at the end. Wait for everybody else to wreck.”

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JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, NO. 42 TARGET CHEVROLET, involved in a multi-car accident on lap nine (9):

NOT THE WAY YOU WANTED THIS RACE TO END. WHAT HAPPENED OUT THERE? “We were talking about it earlier. You always get those early wrecks. People are trying to make the race; trying to make crazy moves when they don’t really count when everybody is just really riding. Yes, we’re running three-wide, but you are making moves to see which lane moves and stuff. For everybody on our Target Chevy, it really sucks. We had an awesome race car and it’s pretty bad.”

IS IT JUST PAR FOR THE COURSE WHAT WE ARE SEEING OUT THERE? “It is what it is, you know. I don’t want to get involved in whose fault it is. It is part of restrictor plate racing.”

WHAT HAPPENED GOING DOWN INTO TURN ONE? “I think the No. 98 wrecked (David) Gilliland and I was next to him. We were right in the middle. When they started spinning I just tried to hold it wide open hoping I could clear them and wide open I went into the fence.”

I KNOW IT WAS EARLY BUT HOW WAS THE RACING THE FIRST 10 OR 11 LAPS YOU HAD? “It was ok. You know it is a shame. Everybody on this Target team and Chevy everybody involved in this program has worked so hard. We had an awesome race car. To lose it like that kind of sucks.”