Daytona Duel: Tony Stewart race notes

SECONDS, PLEASE After Finishing Second in Shootout, Stewart Scores Second in Duel Tony Stewart continued riding the momentum from his second-place finish last Saturday night in the non-points Budweiser Shootout by finishing second in his...

SECONDS, PLEASE
After Finishing Second in Shootout, Stewart Scores Second in Duel

Tony Stewart continued riding the momentum from his second-place finish last Saturday night in the non-points Budweiser Shootout by finishing second in his Gatorade Duel qualifying race on Thursday. The result will slot the driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota sixth in Sunday's 50th running of the Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.

Stewart was in contention to win his third Gatorade Duel, as he led once for nine laps in a race extended four laps past its scheduled 60-lap distance after a green/white/checkered finish.

It was the green/white/checkered finish that seemed to end Stewart's shot at adding to his Gatorade Duel wins from 2005 and 2007, as Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin used a slingshot move to pull past Stewart and take the lead with two laps to go. Hamlin held the top spot on the lap that mattered most, giving Joe Gibbs Racing its 115th professional victory and the first Sprint Cup Series win of any kind for Toyota.

"I'm happy," said Stewart, who had to drop to the rear of the 26-car field after the team changed its engine following Wednesday's practice session. "Obviously, if the caution doesn't come out, we think the outcome might have been different. But, you know, the important thing was to keep Joe Gibbs Racing 1-2 no matter what the order was. That's what I told Denny during that red-flag period. One of the two of us has to win this race.

"If you get a run, you've got to go, and he got a run that he couldn't stop. If he would've tried to go with me, we probably would've ended up fourth or fifth. I thought he did a great job.

"I'm really happy with our guys. We just kind of took it easy at the beginning. After that caution midway through the race, we just went ahead and tried to work our way forward and got there.

"Handling is at an all-time premium this year, just liked we talked about in the Shootout. Everybody is going to take what they learned today and try to make their cars better for Sunday."

Stewart and his Joe Gibbs Racing brethren already appear to be good. Hamlin led two laps en route to his win, while fellow Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch led twice for 15 laps before getting shuffled out of the draft to finish 11th.

Hamlin's win will put him fourth in the Daytona 500, while Busch will start 24th.

Friday and Saturday mean two more days of practice before the Daytona 500, a race where Stewart has led a total of 266 laps in nine previous Daytona 500 starts, with a best finish of second in 2004.

With the Gatorade Duel qualifying races having been decided, the field for the Daytona 500 is set. On the pole is two-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, and alongside him is Michael Waltrip. By notching the two quickest times during time trials last Sunday, both drivers were able to lock themselves into position for the Daytona 500. All the remaining drivers, however, had to race their way to a Daytona 500 starting spot via the Gatorade Duel.

The green flag waves for the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 3:30 p.m. EST with live, high-definition coverage provided by FOX.

-credit: jgr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Michael Waltrip , Jimmie Johnson , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing