DAYTONA DOMINANCE Stewart Wins Third Straight Season-Opening NASCAR Nationwide Series Race at Daytona Tony Stewart continued his domination of the season-opening NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway by winning...
Stewart Wins Third Straight Season-Opening NASCAR Nationwide Series Race at Daytona
Tony Stewart continued his domination of the season-opening NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway by winning Saturday's DRIVE4COPD 300.
The driver of the No. 4 Oreo/Ritz Chevrolet Impala for Kevin Harvick Inc., scored his third straight win in the event and his fifth in the last six years. It was Stewart's 15th overall victory at Daytona and his ninth career Nationwide Series win.
"That's probably one of the most dominant cars I've ever had at Daytona," said Stewart, who led three times for a race-high 38 laps in the 120-lap race. "We were really, really loose at the beginning, but we just took our time and methodically worked our way into the top-10. Then with pit stops and everything, we got a chance to work on it. We really hit on it there at the end, and I felt confident that I could go wherever I needed to go on the racetrack."
Stewart was never challenged at the end of the event, as the final 20 laps were run under green and he led every one of them.
The victory placed Stewart in elite company, as his 15 wins at Daytona, which includes all point races, qualifying races and selected support races, put him in a tie for third-place with Cale Yarborough. Only Dale Earnhardt Sr., and Bobby Allison have won more races at Daytona than Stewart.
"When you put the win in that context, it makes it that much more special," said Stewart upon hearing where Saturday's victory ranked him. "It doesn't matter what kind of car it is -- it's always an honor to win at Daytona. After 15 of 'em now, there's still one I haven't won, and that's the Sunday show (Daytona 500). But it's always cool to be sitting up here after a race and talking about why we had such a good day and why we were able to do it."
Stewart's day started from 32nd in the 43-car field, as qualifying was rained-out on Friday and the field was set by 2009 owner points. He wasted little time driving his No. 4 Oreo/Ritz Chevy to the front, as he cracked the top-15 by lap 20 and with drafting help from Greg Biffle, worked his way into the top-10 less than five laps later.
From that point forward, Stewart was a mainstay among the top-five. He led laps 65-74 and 90-92 before taking over for good on lap 96.
"I spent 60-70 percent of my laps looking up in the (rearview) mirror," said Stewart about leading all those laps. "It's pretty easy when you're going in a straight line, but it gets a little dicey when you're in the corners watching and trying to figure out where guys are trying to get a run on you. The only way you have the flexibility to look up in the mirror when you're in the corners like that is when your car is comfortable."
Stewart's margin of victory over second-place Carl Edwards was a relatively comfortable .309 of a second. Kevin Harvick, Stewart's teammate in the DRIVE4COPD 300, finished third. Justin Allgaier and Brian Vickers took spots four and five. The rest of the top-10 consisted of Paul Menard, Joey Logano, rookie James Buescher, Kasey Kahne and Steve Wallace.
The race featured seven caution periods for 32 laps, with 17 drivers failing to finish the race.
The next event on the Nationwide Series schedule is the Feb. 20 Stater Bros. 300 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.