Stewart wins at Daytona

There was a shortage of fireworks for NASCAR's July 4th weekend spectacular at Daytona International Speedway. Things didn't get compelling until the race's final three laps, and then a final lap caution ended the Pepsi 400 with a whimper.

Race winner Tony Stewart celebrates.
Photo by General Motors and Wieck Media Services.
Tony Stewart was trailing Boris Said on a restart with three to go, but it took the No. 20 Chevrolet just one lap to make the pass. Stewart led a race high 86 of 160 laps on his way to his 26th career win and second of the season.

In typical Stewart fashion, he climbed the fence, grabbed the flag and then created his own 'mosh pit' with race fans in the grandstand under the flag stand.

"It's harder to climb the fence," joked Stewart. "I thought maybe I should let someone else go around here and let them climb it this time. I can't do that though. I'm so proud of all these guys. These guys are the ones who made it happen. It's not me. We go to the restrictor plate races, and its Greg Zipadelli and everyone on the Home Depot team.

"They do such a good job.it's been a long weekend. It's been a long, hot weekend. I can't wait to get out of here."

Stewart grabs his second career Cup win at Daytona; he was the defending winner of this event.

Kyle Busch was second earning his best finish of the season.

"It was a good run.to come out of here with a second place finish," said Kyle Busch. "We have never been able to finish here much so that was a big improvement."

Kurt Busch was third, "All in all it was a good day to be able to run up front and have a good teammate like Ryan Newman to be able to draft with and be able to race with my little brother at the end. I was trying to tell him telepathically to drag the brake and slow down a little bit and maybe we could draft by Tony, but it was a solid 20 car. It was tough to pass him."

Tony Stewart, Boris Said and Jeff Gordon.
Photo by Greg Aleck.
Said and Elliott Sadler complete the top five.

"I'm speechless," Said commented. "That's like a win for us.This Ford Fusion was great. Thanks to everybody at Roush Racing. I'm speechless."

Said brought the field to the green flag but Stewart quickly passed for the lead. For a restrictor plate race it was fairly mellow, with long green flag stretches and little actual racing.

By lap 147, there had been just a few cautions, two for debris and one for a spin by the No. 31 Chevrolet of Jeff Burton. On lap 147, the top ten cars of Jimmie Johnson and Bobby Labonte made contact bringing out the fourth caution.

Things started to pick up from there, as Said took the lead after he stayed out during the ensuing pit stops. Said was looking solid at the front of the field with seven to go when the night's only multi-car crash broke out involving Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, JJ Yeley and Jeff Gordon.

The field restarted with three to go with Said in the lead, but Stewart took it from him on lap 158. Things were just getting interesting when a caution fell on the final lap ending the race under yellow.

Despite a 32nd place finish, Jimmie Johnson continues to lead series standings. Matt Kenseth (-13), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-267), Kasey Kahne (- 292), Tony Stewart (-299), Mark Martin (-324), Jeff Burton (-349), Kyle Busch (-406), Kevin Harvick (-413), and Denny Hamlin (-453) complete the top ten.

Jeff Gordon.
Photo by Getty Images.
Notably, Jeff Gordon's 40th place finish drops him back out of the top ten in points to 12th.

"We had guys out there with no tires, some two, some four," explained Gordon. "We had some guys handling poor and some handling great.we worked our way up and it was dicey and crazy. The 8 team was out in the middle and the 16 was going around him and he turned down on me. There were so many guys out there, I want to bad mouth every one of them, but I'm not going to."

There were five cautions for 18 laps and 29 lead changes among 15 drivers.