BUSCH: Stewart grabs first Busch win

BUSCH: Stewart grabs first Busch win

Tony Stewart may be one of the world's most underrated race car drivers. Stewart survived a wild ride through the infield grass that bumped him out of the lead but marched back to grab the victory at Daytona. Under yellow: Tony Stewart...

Tony Stewart may be one of the world's most underrated race car drivers. Stewart survived a wild ride through the infield grass that bumped him out of the lead but marched back to grab the victory at Daytona.

Under yellow: Tony Stewart takes the checkered flag ahead of Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr..
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
"I think I came from about 17th with ten to go," said Stewart. "Man, the thing was good today. The No. 11 car was fast on speed, but these guys on Kevin Harvick's Racing crew did an awesome job. We kept freeing it up and freeing it up and we just got a run there and go by."

It's been a good Speedweeks for Stewart, who garnered a win in his Cup car earlier this week in his Twin 150 time-trial event.

"It was fun," said Stewart. "A little more exciting than I wanted there at times. You know the No. 11 car was probably the class of the field all day, he just didn't know what to do with it. He had the best car and he didn't know where to go.

"I've worked a long time to try and get a Busch win here -- not necessarily here, but just in general. There are times I've been driving for DEI and stuff has happened, so this is nice to finally get this one under our belts."

The break of the race for Stewart came when he was able to make up six positions in one lap to reposition himself for the win. Once he and car owner Kevin Harvick managed to hook up in the draft, they were able to power past the dominate DEI Chevy's to land the top two finishing spots.

"I was behind Reed (Sorenson)," said Harvick. "We got that restart and we were able to get along side of him (Earnhardt). I have no idea where the 33 came from but we were able to clear the 81.

"All in all it was a pretty good day for us."

Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr..
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Martin Truex, Jr. were poised to win with 15 to go but once Stewart managed to separate the DEI freight train they slipped back and finished third and fourth.

"I stayed out on a caution," said Earnhardt. "I got the lead and thought I would be in good shape but Tony (Stewart) and those guy got around. We got a restart and there was too much room between us all (Sorenson, Truex). Harvick got going around the outside then Tony (Stewart) came coming around the outside.

"I don't know where he came from."

Kasey Kahne completed the top five, making it a near sweep by Cup series regulars.

"That's a good run for us," said Kahne. "We are pretty happy with that."

Joe Nemechek brought the field to the green flag but his reign at the top wouldn't last long. Kyle Busch powered past Nemechek on the first lap to grab the lead. Busch led until lap seven, when Paul Menard managed to wheel past the No. 5 Chevy.

Menard led through a round of pit stops spurred by a caution flag waved at lap 23 for the limping car of Sterling Marlin. At lap 29, however, Menard could not hold off the hard-charging Chevy of Tony Stewart. Stewart piloting the Kevin Harvick owned No. 33 car sailed past Menard to seize the top spot.

Cars at speed.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Stewart and Menard swapped spots again at lap 33, and Menard was leading on lap 48 when the second caution occurred. Reigning Busch series champ Martin Truex, Jr. took a wild spin into the grass halting the field under yellow after car owned Dale Earnhardt, Jr. slammed into his rear end.

After the ensuing pit stops, Menard once again assumed the catbird seat closely pursued by Stewart. It took Stewart a few laps but he finally out powered Menard who this time was shuffled backward in the draft.

Stewart appeared unflappable until lap 85 when Earnhardt briefly took the lead, but Stewart quickly regained his position. Stewart led until lap 94 when the No. 60 Ford of Carl Edwards bumped Stewart in the corner.

Stewart took a wild ride through the grass but managed to hold onto the No. 33 Chevy and rejoin the field a miraculous eighth, a real testament to Stewart who is clearly a superior driver.

"I don't know how he drove that car back on the track without spinning it," said Earnhardt of Stewart. "He's just a talent. I don't know if you can put that guy in compromising position and not have him get his way out of it."

The bump gained Edwards the lead of the event.

Edwards led at lap 100 when Kenny Wallace slammed the No. 22 Ford after cutting a right front tire. Earnhardt and Truex opted not to pit and inherited the 1-2 spot in the event.

Stewart was shuffled back to 17th position.

With 15 laps to go the field restart with the DEI freight train solidly in control. The duo continued to lead when the fifth caution of the day flew on lap 114. Ryan Hemphill and Stanton Barrett made contact junking the No. 4 Dodge of Hemphill.

None of the cars in contention for the race win pitted under yellow and when the field went back to green Earnhardt and Truex continued to lead the charge with five to go.

Stewart caught Truex and overtook him for second place and made his move on Earnhardt passing him with three laps left. Earnhardt was shuffled back to third as Harvick powered past to assume the runner-up spot.

With the DEI cars separated Stewart and Harvick came across the line on the final lap just as a wreck broke out behind them. In the end, car owner Harvick pushed his driver Stewart across the line to earn his first Busch series win in his 42nd start.

The top five assume the top five positions in series points. Stewart will also drive Harvick's ride next weekend at Fontana.

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Series NASCAR-NS