Daytona II: In the loop

'In The Loop' At Daytona International Speedway Stewart: Winning A Matter Of Time DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 4, 2007) -- The last time it took Tony Stewart this long to win a race, he was new to NASCAR. In 1999, Stewart's rookie season, he ...

'In The Loop' At Daytona International Speedway
Stewart: Winning A Matter Of Time

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 4, 2007) -- The last time it took Tony Stewart this long to win a race, he was new to NASCAR.

In 1999, Stewart's rookie season, he needed 25 races to win his first race. He ended the season with three wins, beginning a trend as a late-coming, wins-in-bunches type driver.

In 2000, Stewart won six races, starting with race 13.

Only twice has Stewart won a race before the 11th race of the season -- in 2002 he won the fourth race of the season at Atlanta and last year, he won the sixth race at Martinsville.

In other words, there's no reason to panic for Stewart, who is heading to Saturday night's Pepsi 400 -- the 18th race of the 2007 season -- looking for his first win.

Even better news for Stewart: the Pepsi 400 takes place at Daytona International Speedway, a track at which he's excelled. Stewart has won the event the past two years and this Saturday night looks to join David Pearson as the only drivers to win three consecutive Pepsi 400s.

Stewart, in leading the last seven Daytona races, has racked up impressive stats there: Driver Rating of 120.5 (first), 8.1 Average Running Position (first), 31 Fastest Laps Run (second), Fastest Green Flag Speed, 733 Laps in the Top 15 (first).

Stewart also owns some of the single-race records at Daytona since Loop Data's inception in 2005.

Additionally, during his 2005 Pepsi 400 victory, Stewart spent all 160 laps in the top 15. Only Stewart and Jimmie Johnson accomplished the feat that race.

This season's Daytona 500, which was the closest Daytona 500 since the advent of electronic scoring in 1993, Kevin Harvick beat Mark Martin by .020 of-a-second.

Arguably, the more impressive part of the story is the comeback made by Harvick at the end of that race. With 20 laps to go, Harvick was in 29th place. With the win, he earned 28 'Closer' positions -- positions improved in the last 10% of the race.

In the overall Closer standings, three drivers currently in the top 12 of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series standings are in the top five of the Closer standings.

The Race to the Chase -- the final 10 races prior to the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup -- continues, as drivers outside the top 12 have nine more races to make a move. This Saturday night's Daytona race seems like the perfect time for some of the "bubble" drivers to gain some ground.

Ryan Newman (in 13th), Jamie McMurray (14th) and Kurt Busch (15 th) all have better Driver Ratings over the last five Daytona races than Kyle Busch (ninth), Martin Truex Jr. (10th) and Clint Bowyer (11th), who are all less than 200 points inside the Chase cutoff. And both Newman and Busch have better Driver Ratings than Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is in 12th.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Martin Truex Jr. , Clint Bowyer , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin , David Pearson