Stewart Shows Strength in Budweiser Shootout Home Depot Driver Starts Third and Finishes Third While Rookie Teammate Denny Hamlin Takes First Win Tony Stewart drove his ...
Stewart Shows Strength in Budweiser Shootout
Home Depot Driver Starts Third and Finishes Third While Rookie Teammate Denny Hamlin Takes First Win
Tony Stewart drove his #20 Home Depot Chevrolet to a strong third-place finish in Sunday's Budweiser Shootout non-point NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway.
The reigning Nextel Cup champion showed the same kind of strength he displayed at Daytona in 2005, when he led 258 of an available 363 laps in Daytona's two Nextel Cup races - the Daytona 500 and the Pepsi 400. Stewart won the Pepsi 400 to score his first ever restrictor plate victory, and with his solid outing in the Shootout - the precursor to the Daytona 500 - Stewart showed that another Daytona win is well within reach.
"We had a pretty good run," said Stewart, who started third but bounced back and forth between the lead and mid-pack during numerous attempts for the top spot. "We finally got with our teammate and once we got there we just tried to keep the two of us together to do everything we could to stay up front."
Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate was Denny Hamlin, the rookie driver of the #11 FedEx Chevrolet. For much of the 70-lap race it was Hamlin and Stewart running 1-2. But when it came to the final laps - decided amidst a green-white-checker shootout - it was Hamlin who crossed the stripe in first while Stewart battled a determined Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the runner-up spot.
"He's a talented kid," said Stewart of Hamlin. "He ran a real solid race and he showed a lot of patience. He already had my respect as a teammate, but he just furthered it even more with the way he handled himself today.
"He had a great car. When we got behind him, there was absolutely nothing we could do with him once he got in the lead. But still, the best car doesn't always win the race if the guy behind the steering wheel doesn't do a good job. Denny's had the talent all along. He drove a smart race and did an awesome job."
Hamlin, Earnhardt and Stewart took the top-three spots while Scott Riggs and Jimmie Johnson secured the rest of the top-five. Comprising the remainder of the top-10 were Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Joe Nemechek and Dale Jarrett.
Next up for Stewart and Co. is the Gatorade Duel - twin 150-lap races which will set the field for the Daytona 500. They go off on Thurs., Feb. 16 with live coverage by TNT beginning at 2 p.m. Speedweeks then culminates with the Daytona 500 on Sun., Feb. 19 at 2:30 p.m., which can be seen live on NBC.