Bass Pro Shops/Ducks Unlimited driver climbs back into top-10 in points.
Tony Stewart drove his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Ducks Unlimited Chevrolet SS to a strong second-place finish in the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.
“I didn’t get as good a restart as I wanted,” said Stewart of the two-lap dash to the checkered flag, “but I think it kind of worked to our favor. It got Clint (Bowyer) a little bit ahead of me and it got Kevin (Harvick) a little bit ahead of Jimmie (Johnson). That let Jimmie and me both tuck down to those two guys and get going. Kurt Busch gave us a really good push from behind there and that got us back to getting Jimmie the shove he needed. It got us far enough ahead to where we could worry about racing him.”
The second-place finish was Stewart’s seventh top-three in 30 career, point-paying Sprint Cup starts at Daytona. It was also his fourth top-five finish this season, which vaulted him six spots to 10th in the championship standings.
“It was definitely a good points night,” Stewart said. “If you can’t win, you always want to run second. With these things being as crazy as they are, you’re pretty happy if you can end up with a top-two, because normally if you leave here in the top-two, you’ve got a straight racecar too.”
Stewart was one of the few to leave Daytona with a straight racecar. The 2.5-mile oval gobbled up a number of cars with a total of four multi-car accidents. The most ferocious happened as the field took the checkered flag, and it collected Stewart’s Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammates Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick. While neither driver left with a straight racecar, they did leave with decent results. Newman came home 10th and Patrick finished 14th.
“I’m glad I was ahead of all the chaos,” Stewart said. “This is a 195 mph chess match and the lap that pays is the last lap.”
Jimmie Johnson won the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola to score his 64th career Sprint Cup victory, his fourth of the season and his third at Daytona. Johnson, who also won the season-opening Daytona 500, became the first driver since NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison in 1982 to sweep the Daytona 500 and the Coke Zero 400 in the same year.
Finishing third behind Johnson and Stewart was Harvick. Bowyer and Michael Waltrip rounded out the top-five, while Busch, Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Casey Mears and Newman comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were six caution periods for 27 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish the 161-lap race, which was extended one lap by the green-white-checkered finish.
With round 18 of 36 complete, Stewart continues to lead the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He’s 10th with 499 points, 159 back of series leader Johnson and six points ahead of 11th-place Martin Truex Jr. Newman moved up two spots to 16th and has 482 points, 176 out of first and 17 behind 10th-place Stewart. Patrick picked up two spots to 25th and has 343 points, 315 behind Johnson and 156 away from Stewart.
Eight races remain before the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Only the top-10 in points are locked into the Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. In the event of multiple drivers having the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Truex (11th) and Kasey Kahne (12th) are the only drivers between 11th and 20th in points with a victory, so they hold the first and second wild-card spots, respectively.
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished three spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 11th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Camping World RV Sales 301 on Sunday, July 14 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. The race starts at 1 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by TNT beginning with its pre-race show at noon.