Third win of the year for Stewart, best season finish for Burton.
Jeff Burton, No. 31 Wheaties Chevrolet came home with his best finish in 2012 with a runner-up spot behind Stewart. It was Burton’s 11th top-10 finish in 38 races at Daytona International Speedway.
Fellow Stewart-Haas teammate Ryan Newman also posted a top-five finish as he brought his No. 39 Aspen Dental Chevrolet home in fifth place giving Chevrolet three of the top-five spots in the 160-lap race. Pole sitter, Matt Kenseth (Ford) and Joey Logano (Toyota) rounded out the top-five by finishing third and fourth respectively.
Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne looked to have a shot at the win late and gave Stewart a final shove to the lead until making contact with another car. He was able to bring his No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet home in seventh position. Kasey dropped two positions to 16th in the point standings.
Other Team Chevrolet finishers were: David Reutimann, No. 10 CarportEmpire.com/TMone.com/Call Centers Chevrolet was 11th; Jeff Gordon, No. 24 PepsiMax Chevrolet was 12th; Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Bass Pro Shops/NRA Museum Chevrolet was 13th; Paul Menard, No. 27 Quaker State/Menards Chevrolet was 14th; Dale Earnhardt Jr, No. 88 National Guard/An American Salute/Diet Mtn. Dew Chevrolet, was 15th; Dave Blaney, No. 36 Golden Corral Chevrolet, was 22nd; Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Folds of Honor Chevrolet was 23rd; Juan Pablo Montoya, No. 42 Target Chevrolet was 28th; Regan Smith, No. 78 Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet was 34th; Kurt Busch, No. 51 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet was 35th; Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet was 36th; and Bill Elliott, No. 50 Walmart Chevrolet was 37th.
The series travels next to New Hampshire Motor Speedway and will race on Sunday, July 15th.
TONY STEWART AND STEVE ADDINGTON, NO. 14 MOBIL 1/OFFICE DEPOT CHEVROLET – WINNERS
KERRY THARP: We're joined now by our race winner of the 54th annual Coke Zero 400, and that driver is Tony Stewart. He drove the No. 14 Mobil1/Office Depot Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. He's joined by his crew chief Steve Addington. For Tony this is his third win in 2012, so him and Keselowski now are tied for the most wins in the series, and that pays dividends come Chase time with the bonus points. 18 wins now at Daytona overall, 18 wins at Daytona, second all-time behind Dale Earnhardt. 47 wins in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, that is now 14th all-time passing Hall of Fame inductee Buck Baker. Congratulations. Certainly there was a lot of action out there, particularly late in the race, but how did you get to the checkered flag?
TONY STEWART: The guy sitting next to us, honestly. We started at the back there and were a little -- probably too cautious -- I was a little too cautious at the beginning, and we came out of the pits after that first green flag stop, and we lost connection with the lead pack there and got with Brad Keselowski and David Ragan and just tried to minimize the damage there as far as the time we were losing.
But got a caution there and got regrouped. Just made sure that when the green came out that time I didn't wait, and we got going on the outside and gained a lot of spots there and got ourselves in the top 10. Then Steve had a great call there that actually got us the lead with two tires there, I think three stops or two stops from the end or two cautions from the end, and yeah, that was the key. We were able to hold that track position, got the lead on the restart, and we just -- we were pretty good on the bottom. The biggest challenge was the 17 and 16 car obviously, and when they hooked up, I don't think there was anybody that could beat them. But we were able to stay in touch with them, and I got a great restart with Kasey Kahne helping me on that last restart there. I'm not sure how he got shuffled back there in 1 and 2, but we just had to try to separate the 17 and 16 there, and once we got them pulled apart, I think Matt tried to reconnect with Greg, and we carried enough momentum to get back around in front of him and get down on that bottom line. I tried to back up to Matt to make sure they didn't get a huge run on us. They were coming on the outside in 3 and 4 and the last wreck happened there, we were just fortunate enough to be leading still.
KERRY THARP: Steve Addington, certainly the crew played a big role in tonight's win. Just talk about how things went on pit road and also some of the key changes maybe you guys made during the course of the of the event.
STEVE ADDINGTON: Well, having started last it was kind of tough. I think once we got the caution and got back up there, we were losing touch with the lead pack there when Brad and David Ragan and Tony were sitting there running the lap times, I was getting a little worried. But then I was hoping we would get a caution and we got one and we got up in there. The guys do an awesome job on our pit stops week in and week out. They wrote off a good pit stop, and they ran off about eight laps there, and my engineer was telling us, if we come now, we can do it on one can if it goes green until the end.
So we decided to come and put right sides on then and then top off the fuel. So that put us in the position for the late race caution deal, and we came down and got right sides and one can of fuel and we could make it to the end, and that got us the lead.
Q. Tony, I know you've probably tried to explain this before, but one more time, how do you explain to people the fact that you are obviously no fan of this style of racing, yet you happen to be rather good at it? How do you explain that correlation there?
TONY STEWART: I wish I could explain it. You know, it's hard. I mean, it's hard, the great thing about it is that 43 cars all have the same shot at winning the race. But that's also part of what makes it frustrating, too.
We've had really good luck at Daytona, obviously, and I wish I could trade a couple of these races in for just one Sunday race in February. You know, it's just being at the right place at the right time, and when those last two big wrecks happened we were in the right spot. We were ahead of them both times.
Q. Tony, given how strong Kenseth and Biffle were going into that final -- the restart, how did you feel? Did you feel you still had a good shot to overtake them?
TONY STEWART: I knew I had a good car behind me with Kasey Kahne, obviously, knowing that those two guys were going to be teamed up with each other on the bottom, I was surprised we got as good a restart as we did. Kasey did a great job of getting hooked on the bumper right away, and it seemed like we actually held our own and actually we were better on the outside than those two cars were.
But that was key was being able to keep hooked up, and when we were leading on the bottom before that last caution, two different times those guys got hooked up together, and when they did, they were like a steam train coming on the outside. I'm sure if I would have backed up to Kyle Busch, we would have been pretty fast, too, but I'm not sure if we could have held those two off.
Q. Two questions, Tony: One, close calls tonight, what was the closest call that you had to getting caught up in all of the craziness that was going on? And secondly, I don't know if you look at it like that, but three wins already this year is a very strong statement towards the championship and just continuing what you did last year, if you could speak to that.
TONY STEWART: I'm not sure, we got pretty fortunate to not have any of those close calls when Kurt Busch had that one problem in 1 and 2. That was the closest to drama that we had, and it really wasn't that bad. The ones after that seemed to be a lot bigger and caught up a lot more cars.
And for the most part, I guess probably the fact that we were looking at going a lap down because we lost touch with that lead draft was probably the biggest drama we had. But really proud of Steve and really proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing and the Hendrick engine and chassis department, really pleased with the first half the season. I think there was some races that we lost some opportunities on, but I think there were races that we capitalized on that we haven't been able to in the past. I think on the average, we're really looking good right now. So proud of the effort with everybody. On the average I feel like we're making gains.
It's nice to come into this weekend and leaving here tonight, I'm leaving with a big weight lifted off our shoulders. I think qualifying yesterday was what I was most proud of for the weekend, and even though we lost our time, having those two cars come here and be second and third separated by only eight thousandths of a second it shows how good a job the guys did at our race shop. Really proud of everybody in our organization, and I feel like that we showed some strength today.
Q. Tony, this is the last time that this edition of the Car of Tomorrow or whatever you want to call it will run at Daytona since you're going to the new cars next year. Can you summarize your thoughts on how this car has performed at Daytona?
TONY STEWART: I guess they've been fine. I mean, it's -- the hard part is that we're all running wide open and we're all in a pack and we can't get away from each other, so I'm not sure it's the car that necessarily has done that. But I think every time we come here, the field is more competitive, and it's proven by how many guys have a shot to win the race, guys that you won't see up front next week were guys that you saw at some point that were in the top 10 tonight.
It shows how good a job everybody does at the restrictor plate tracks, and it is proof that everybody has a shot to win these things and to run in the top 5 when they get here, it's just a matter of getting that luck on your side and being at the right place at the right time and having that opportunity.
Q. Tony, just a little bit off the subject, the other day you did a commercial with Darrell Gwynn, and the production people, you came in and spoke your lines. You looked at the lines for about 20 seconds, you pulled it off and you impressed everybody with your ability to do that. I was just wondering your skills as a driver are obvious, but could you kind of explain that? Was it all that experience in doing that?
TONY STEWART: I credit Columbus North High School for all of that. I can read lines. I don't think I do any better job than anybody else. There was another guy there that memorized his lines. I just came in and read the cards that they had for me.
But I think the more you do it, the more comfortable you are, and after about 17 or 18 years of either racing stock cars or IndyCars, we've done it a little bit. So it's not totally new to us.
Q. This obviously is a little different than after Talladega, so I'm curious, from your seat, is the racing any different here than Talladega, or is today just survive the wrecks and be up front?
TONY STEWART: I think we just survived the wrecks. I mean, you look at where we were at when they happened, they happened right behind us each time. The track position that Steve got us, that was very key. I mean, if we got stuck fourth or fifth on back, we were going to be one of those cars that got caught in the wreck. Fortunately we were ahead of them both times. But looking at the replays of the last two cautions, it's not any different here.
KERRY THARP: Tony, congratulations on your nomination for the ESPY coming up as Driver of the Year. Maybe just talk about what that means, particularly for your racing organization to be held in such high esteem.
TONY STEWART: It's an honor just to be nominated. I'm really proud of our group, like I mentioned about this year. I was really proud of what they were able to accomplish the last 10 weeks last year, and any time you get nominated in that category with so many great race car drivers, it's just an honor to be considered. So very appreciative of that.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations, Tony and Steve, and continued good luck the rest of the year. We'll see you at New Hampshire.
KERRY THARP: Let's roll right into our post-race for tonight's 54th annual Coke Zero 400 here at Daytona International Speedway. We're joined by our second- and third-place finishers in tonight's race: Our race runner up, Jeff Burton, and he drove the No. 31 Wheaties Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, and our third-place finisher is our points leader Matt Kenseth, and he drove the No. 17 Zest Ford for Roush-Fenway Racing. We'll start with you, Jeff. Certainly good finish for you here this evening, the type of finishes that I know you've been looking for. Talk about the race out here tonight at Daytona.
JEFF BURTON: Well, certainly feels good to have a good finish. We've had a miserable year, and to come -- to get out of Daytona with a second place finish, we ought to be happy. We finished fifth here in the 500 and second tonight, so two top 5s down here is probably more than I can expect with all the wrecks and stuff. Hopefully it's something that'll kick start our year a little bit. It's been a difficult year, and hopefully we can build on this.
Q. What was the problem early with the overheating? What was the culprit?
JEFF BURTON: We had the trouble at Talladega, as well. We were just too hot. We can't run a whole race racing the way we really want to race. We have to get out of the pack or we run too much oil temp and too much water temp are Joan telling us we can do without having an engine failure. It's not one thing wrong, it's just I think we have a package issue that's just not working with this combination. We had the tandem thing figured out really well, but we're just a little behind on this it seems like. Didn't have any trouble at the 500, but we had it at Talladega and then we had it again here this weekend. We're just got to go to work and figure out where we're hissing it because we're not wanting to ride around in the back. We're feeling like we have to. If we don't, we're not going to finish a race.
Q. This is the last time this iteration of this car is going to run at Daytona since the new cars will be introduced next year. How would you grade how this car has performed at Daytona during its existence?
JEFF BURTON: Well, I mean, it's -- you kind of get whatever race they want to do with the rule package. They wanted to separate tandem racing and they've done it. They've made it where you can't push anybody for too long. You can do it for three or four laps maybe at the end of the race but you can't do it at any other time. I don't know, I rode around in the back all night so it's hard for me to judge it. One thing about the car they have been able to adjust the rules to get the kind of race that they're looking for, and that's been a positive thing.
But I'm not going to judge the quality of races. That's just not my place. I have a perspective that's different than perhaps a fan's perspective, but they have been known to make changes to get the race what they want it to be.
Q. You said you had to ride around all night until you decided to go. Did you work with anybody in particular to get up there to have a runner up finish?
JEFF BURTON: Well, Kevin and I were working together. We always try to work with our teammates every chance we get. Honestly without it being tandem racing you are kind of on your own. You really, in the middle of the pack, when there's a hole that you feel like you got to go in, you've just got go in it. Your teammate can't be waiting for you when you're in the middle of the pack. When you're in the front of the pack that's a different deal. You can drag a brake and do the things to keep yourselves hooked up. But in the middle of the pack, with pack racing you've just got to go where you think you've got to go. All the Childress cars ended up on the same strategy based on what the race delivered with the water temp and oil temp situation, and we worked together a fair amount getting back up through the pack. In pack racing it's hard to work with any one person.
Q. Top 5 in the 500, top 5 here in the 400, how do you turn this into momentum going on into the season now as we look at the second half?
JEFF BURTON: Well, momentum is created by running well. Momentum doesn't create good runs, good runs create momentum. So we've got to go to New Hampshire and perform. We've done okay on the mile and three quarter mile, half mile tracks. We have been not good at all on the mile and a halfs. We're doing a lot of work between now and going back to Michigan to try to change some stuff to get some speed and some drivability back in the cars, and that's what it's going to be about. I mean, running well and finishing well here tonight is great. Unfortunately it doesn't mean a lot about how our cars are going to drive when we go to Michigan or somewhere. We're obviously behind on that or we wouldn't be 20th in points. We've got to perform. If we perform, the momentum will get built. Momentum is in my eyes is a highly over used word. Success creates momentum, it's not the other way around.
Q. What happened in Turn 2 on the last lap? Did you just run out of room? And when you slipped there, did you bump into anybody or anything?
JEFF BURTON: You know, Kevin was pushing me, and we had caught, we had gotten to the back of the 16 car, and we just were going faster than we needed to be going. I had to check up and when I did, it kind of moved me up the track a little bit, then Kevin because he was pushing me, now he was pushing me more on my left rear quarter panel and it just pushed me up the track. We just got lucky nobody was there. I think the 5 car was there. I knew somebody was there and I pushed him up the track but didn't really hit anything somehow, and he did a good job of avoiding it because he was -- we were getting ready to have a big wreck there. A little bit of luck and just not being able to talk when you are two car tandem, not being able to talk is very, very difficult because the guy that's pushing you, you can't see anything, and I'm sure Kevin didn't really know how close I was to the 16 or what I had going on there. Just a product of plate racing, and we got lucky to get out of it.
Q. As far as a shot in the arm for your team going into the weekend, could you explain to the fans basically how long that lasts for you and for your team?
JEFF BURTON: Well, it doesn't last for very long for me, a good win or a bad loss. You know, I get over those things pretty quickly. Our success or fail our tonight doesn't dictate our success or failure next week. It feels good tonight, it'll feel good tomorrow, and then Monday it'll be back to work. It's always good to have finishes, but we need to put a string of finishes together. This sport will -- just when you think you've got it all figured out, you'll realize how stupid you are and vice versa.
It feels good to finish good here tonight, but my biggest concern is how we're going to go to New Hampshire and run and how we're going to use our off week to improve so we can go to Indy and run well and go to Michigan and run well. That's my largest concern.
KERRY THARP: Jeff, Matt, thank you very much, and thanks for the great show tonight. We'll see you at New Hampshire.
Source: Team Chevy Racing