Richard Childress Racing teammates finished third (Elliott Sadler), fifth (Austin Dillon) and eighth (Tony Stewart).
Sadler leads the Nationwide Series championship point standings by two points over Cole Whitt, with RCR teammate Dillon sitting third in the standings.
Sadler's second-place finish serves as his second Nationwide Series top 10 finish at Daytona International Speedway in six starts.
Dillon made 239 green-flag passes, ranking him ninth according to NASCAR's Loop Data statistics.
Dillon ranked second in NASCAR's Loop Data category for closers by advancing 16 positions in the last 10 percent of the race.
Stewart recorded the second-best Driver Rating of 115.6 and the third-best average running finish in the 120-lap race with 8.208.
Stewart led the second-most laps of the 300 miler with 22.
Combined, the RCR entries posted 16.7 percent of the fastest laps of the race, with Dillon and Stewart posting six fastest laps each and Sadler posting three.
James Buesher earned his first career Nationwide Series victory and was followed to the finish line by Brad Keselowski, Sadler, Whitt and Dillon.
The next Nationwide Series race is the Bashas' Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday, March 3. The second race of the 2012 season is scheduled to be televised live on ESPN2 beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and broadcast live on the Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM Satellite Radio.
Elliott Sadler Battles to Third-Place Finish at Daytona International Speedway
Elliott Sadler and the No. 2 OneMain Financial team earned their first top-five finish of the 2012 season after a wild last lap at the NASCAR Nationwide Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Sadler started the DRIVE4COPD 300 in the third position and worked with Trevor Bayne to charge to the front by lap three, with Sadler pacing the field for eight laps. The Richard Childress Racing driver soon found teammate Austin Dillon as they worked together to push to the front of the field. As Dillon and Sadler were separated in the field, Sadler then turned to his other RCR teammate Tony Stewart. The duo wasted little time working their way to the front of the pack by lap 83. As the white flag dropped, Stewart and Sadler raced around the final turns of the famed 2.5-mile superspeedway, looking for the win. A multi-car accident broke out in the final turn, but Sadler was able to avoid trouble as he dove low on the track, crossing the finish line in the third position.
Start - 3 Finish - 3 Laps Led - 8 Points - 1
ELLIOTT SADLER QUOTE: "What a race. Daytona is always a wild card, and you never know what's going to happen until you see that checkered flag. Tony Stewart and I came apart on the last restart a little bit, so I lost a little momentum. We had a ton of steam coming down the backstretch. We definitely were going to win that race, driving the high line. That's Daytona. It was a great effort by the No.2 OneMain Financial team to put together a really great car for this weekend. Last year, I finished 38th and felt like we had to dig ourselves out of a hole for the first four or five races. Today, we felt like we had a chance to win the race. We are happy for that result, so kudos to my team."
((Dillon begins 2012 Nationwide Series Campaign with Top-Five Finish at Daytona
Austin Dillon and the No. 3 AdvoCare Chevrolet team survived numerous multi-car incidents at Daytona International Speedway to earn a fifth-place finish in the Drive4COPD 300. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender started the race in the fifth position and ran anywhere from the second to the 31st positions during the 120-lap race, gaining valuable experience drafting within large packs of cars. During the middle portion of the event, Dillon drove in a two car "tandem draft" to move toward the front of the field, notably pushing RCR teammate Elliott Sadler to the top of the leader board on lap 65 and later pushing Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to the race's lead on lap 91, a move that sparked a wave of cheers from the estimated 82,000 fans in attendance. Dillon was shuffled out of line and running in the 31st position on lap 104 when several cars were collected in a multi-car incident. The 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion masterfully drove around the incident and escaped with just minor damage to the right-front fender of the No. 3 Chevrolet. Crew chief Danny Stockman called Dillon down pit road during the ensuing caution and the RCR team changed tires and repaired the front of the car during a lengthy pit stop. The team managed to stay on the lead lap in the process, which allowed to 21-year-old racer to restart the race in the 24th position with eight laps remaining. Dillon advanced to the 12th position in the closing laps and was charging forward in the running order when another multi-car incident broke out as the field took the checkered flag. Dodging low on the track helped Dillon avoid making contact with the cars spinning in front of him and he was credited with a fifth-place finish. He is now third in the Nationwide Series championship point standings.
Start - 5 Finish - 5 Laps Led - 0 Points Position - 3
AUSTIN DILLON QUOTE: "I think I learned a ton today. I think it was tough because if you get a run and you use the bottom, you just get sucked to the back. You have to use the middle or upper lane. I learned that. These cars push a lot of air, so I was learning how to draft in a Nationwide Series car. In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the trucks single out, get in a line and get one lane working. I'm used to running third or fourth and working that bottom lane. I had a blast out there. I tell you what, it was really fun. It was three wide for a long time. The first 30 laps, I thought they were going to wreck a lot quicker. We got up through there a few times, got to toss it around and ended up fifth so I'm happy."
Stewart, No. 33 Team Claim Top-10 Finish at Daytona Despite Last-Lap Melee
Tony Stewart was poised to notch his fifth straight win in the season-opening NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway, but a last-lap crash while vying for the lead jettisoned those plans. Nonetheless, Stewart was able to nurse his No. 33 Oreo 100th Birthday/Ritz Crackers Chevrolet Impala across the finish line in eighth place while unheralded James Buescher scored a surprise win in the DRIVE4COPD 300. Stewart started seventh in the 120-lap race at the 2.5-mile oval and quickly asserted his familiar position at the front of the field. He took the lead on lap five and went on to lead four more times for a total of 22 laps. As the field took the white flag for the final lap, Stewart hooked up with his Richard Childress Racing teammate Elliott Sadler and rode the high line around turns three and four in a bid for the win. Eleven cars were collected in the last-lap melee, with Stewart and his No. 33 Chevrolet getting pinned against the outside wall. Smoke and debris filled the tri-oval, but Stewart kept his foot in the gas and willed his smoldering, smoking and sparking remnant of a racecar across the finish line in eighth.
Start - 7 Finish - 8 Laps Led - 22 Owner Points - 8
TONY STEWART QUOTE: "Elliott (Sadler) did a great job. Once we got going, we got a big, big, big run down the backstretch. We got on the outside - we had that lane - and then all of a sudden someone turned right, right in front of us. I don't know how they got there or why they got there, but it was a pretty abrupt right-hand turn in front of us. Just all of a sudden the door got slammed on us. I don't know why whoever it was turned right, but it wasn't a very good time to either try blocking or moving. Richard Childress brought us an awesome Oreo 100th Birthday/Ritz Crackers Chevrolet today. Their whole crew just did a great job. It's always so much fun to come here because I just sit in the car, I go run about a dozen laps and then they get it ready for qualifying. We ran around by ourselves most of the day when guys were in a two-car tandem and we could run with them. It showed how good a car we had."