Amanda Vincent, NASCAR Correspondent
Tony Stewart took advantage of late-race drafting help from the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Kasey Kahne to get by the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Matt Kenseth on the final lap to win the Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on Saturday night and drive his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet into victory lane.
"I don't even remember what happened on that last lap," Stewart said in Victory Lane. "Just a weird race."
Any time you win at Daytona, it's special!
With cars wrecking in front of him, Jeff Burton drove his No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet through to a second place finish after hanging out in the back of the race field for much of the event.
"Honestly, we just had to ride around in the back (watching water temperature)," Burton said. "That kept us out of trouble, though."
Kenseth finished third after dominating the race by leading 89 of 160 laps.
"It was just disappointing when you have the best cars like me and Greg (Biffle) did," Kenseth said.
The win was Stewart's fourth July Daytona Sprint Cup win in the last eight years and his 18th Daytona victory across all races in all three of NASCAR's three national touring series. That number is second to Dale Earnhardt's 34 Daytona wins.
"Any time you win at Daytona, it's special," Stewart said.
Stewart posted a fast enough lap time during pole qualifying on Friday to start the race from the second spot, but his time was disallowed by NASCAR, resulting in a 42nd-place start. Meanwhile, Kenseth started from the pole, with Ryan Newman's No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet alongside in second.
Kenseth's RFR teammate, Greg Biffle in the No. 16 Ford, started third, just behind him in the second row, and the two teammates worked together to dominate the event. The Kenseth-Biffle pairing led the first 41 laps of the race until the field cycled through green flag pit stops.
The Michael Waltrip Racing duo of Martin Truex Jr. in the No. 56 Toyota and team owner Michael Waltrip in the No. 55 Toyota cycled to the lead, but their time up front was short-lived when Kenseth pushed Biffle to the lead on lap 49.
After the first caution of the race that came out on lap 81, Kenseth restarted in the lead, with Biffle in second. The two Roush Fenway teammates were temporarily separated by the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Jeff Gordon, but they got back together for a restart following a lap 91 caution.
Kenseth and Biffle headed down pit road for service just before the yellow flag waved for the third caution of the race on lap 124. With pit road closed, Kenseth drove through the pits without stopping, while Biffle went ahead and made his stop.
Kenseth came back down pit road for his stop during the caution, and as a result, restarted outside the top-20. NASCAR then ruled that Biffle had stopped when pit road was closed, and as a result, he had to restart in the back.
Kenseth and Biffle paired back up to make their way back toward the front while Stewart and Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota replaced them up front.
By 20 laps to go, Kenseth -- with help from Biffle -- was back up front battling for the lead.
"I thought we did good to get back to the front after that unfortunate caution," Kenseth said.
The yellow flag waved for the final time with nine laps to go for a multi-car incident that started near the front of the field and collected Hamlin, the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Kyle Busch, the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford of Trevor Bayne, the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet of Juan Montoya, the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford of Marcos Ambrose, the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota of Clint Bowyer and several others.
Just before the caution, Kenseth had retaken the lead, and therefore, restarted up front with Stewart next to him on the front row and Biffle right behind him in third.
Stewart got a push from Kahne to get out front on the restart. He was able to stay there as another front-of-the-field pileup came on the final lap and collected Biffle, the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford of Aric Almirola, the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Jr., the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick, the No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet of Jamie McMurray and a few others.
"We were going into (turn) three, and it looked like everybody was coming apart," Earnhardt said. "I was lifting off of Harvick and getting pushed into him."
Joey Logano finished fourth in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, and Newman was fifth. Brad Keselowski was sixth in the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge, Carl Edwards seventh in the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, Waltrip was eighth, Bobby Labonte ninth in the No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Toyota, and David Reutimann rounded out the top-10 in the No. 10 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet.