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Stewart Emerges With The Victory At Daytona

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Saturday, July 7 2012

Tony Stewart used a last-lap pass to win at DIS. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

Defending series champion Tony Stewart made a solo pass for the lead on the final lap and went on to win the Coke Zero 400 Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night.

Jeff Burton of Richard Childress Racing finished second while Matt Kenseth was third.

The victory was the third of the season for owner/driver Stewart, who won five races in last year’s 10-race Chase to win the title.

“Just a weird day,” Stewart, an admitted critic of restrictor plate racing who started the race 42nd, said.

“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.”

Joey Logano of  Joe Gibbs Racing was fourth and Ryan Newman, Stewart’s Stewart-Haas Racing temmate, was fifth.

Rounding out the top 10 were Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Michael Watlrip, Bobby Labonte and David Reutimann.

For the first 125 laps of the race, Roush Fenway Racing teammates Kenseth and Greg Biffle ruled the preferred bottom lane of the track and led 118 of those laps.

But because of a wreck as Biffle was pitting on lap 125 of the 160-lap race, he was penalized and he and Kenseth were separated on the track.

That gave the lead, and the bottom of the track, to Stewart.

With nine laps to go, Kenseth and Biffle, reunited again were able to inch ahead of Stewart from the outside line. But, with nine to go, Denny Hamlin got loose and that started a wreck just behind the leaders.

Among drivers involved were Kyle Busch, Marcos Ambrose, Trevor Bayne, David Ragan, Juan Pablo Montoya, Casey Mears and Jeff Gordon.

On the restart, Kenseth was P1 with Stewart to his right. Behind them were Biffle and Kasey Kahne.

The race went green with two laps to go.

On the backstretch on the final lap, Stewart – without the benefit of a pushing partner – surged ahead of Kenseth and into the lead. He then dropped to the bottom line and held it to the checkered flag.

“Happy to get third but on the other hand,” Kenseth said, “I am incredibly disappointed. My team kind of deserved to be down there holding the hardware and I kind of let them down. But overall, we had a really fast car, we had a pretty good race, made our way back to the front after the pit road thing and were in contention, just didn’t get it done that last lap.”

Behind the leaders another big crash occurred but Stewart held on for the win.

“The biggest challenge was the 17 and 16 car obviously,” Stewart said of Kenseth and Biffle, “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.”

With the win, Stewart now has 18 career victories at the “World Center of Racing” – second all-time behind Dale Earnhardt (34). The win was also Stewart’s third of the year and ties him with Brad Keselowski for the most victories this season.

“This is 18 wins at Daytona,” said Stewart. “All of them are special and it’s the second time this year we’ve been in Victory Lane at Daytona, so I’m really proud of (my crew). I wish I could trade a couple of these races in for just one Sunday race in February. It’s just being at the right place at the right time. We’re still trying to win the Daytona 500.”

The Results

1. (42) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 160, $340,650.

2. (20) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 160, $238,940.

3. (1) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 160, $232,776.

4. (19) Joey Logano, Toyota, 160, $154,965.

5. (2) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 160, $168,323.

6. (12) Carl Edwards, Ford, 160, $162,106.

7. (3) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 160, $125,265.

8. (9) Brad Keselowski, Dodge, 160, $146,585.

9. (28) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 160, $110,290.

10. (41) Bobby Labonte, Toyota, 160, $135,398.

11. (39) David Reutimann, Chevrolet, 160, $106005.

12. (5) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 160, $148,516.

13. (30) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 160, $135,038.

14. (13) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 160, $111,105.

15. (24) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 160, $110,755.

16. (40) Travis Kvapil, Toyota, 160, $126,213.

17. (18) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 160, $127,644.

18. (7) Casey Mears, Ford, 160, $113,763.

19. (17) Aric Almirola, Ford, 160, $135,691.

20. (34) Terry Labonte, Ford, 160, $107,430.

21. (4) Greg Biffle, Ford, 160, $105,055.

22. (33) Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, 160, $96,330.

23. (11) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 159, $141,391.

24. (22) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 159, $139,038.

25. (23) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 156, $136,696.

26. (27) David Ragan, Ford, Accident, 154, $105,288.

27. (15) Trevor Bayne, Ford, Accident, 152, $92,880.

28. (14) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, Accident, 152, $122,246.

29. (29) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, Accident, 152, $118,744.

30. (10) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, Accident, 152, $117,263.

31. (32) David Gilliland, Ford, Accident, 152, $99,227.

32. (38) Landon Cassill, Toyota, 151, $114,900.

33. (8) Sam Hornish Jr., Dodge, 149, $132,980.

34. (25) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 133, $96,280.

35. (35) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 132, $96,105.

36. (16) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Accident, 123, $134,891.

37. (6) Bill Elliott, Chevrolet, Accident, 123, $87,780.

38. (31) Josh Wise, Ford, Transmission, 47, $89,132.

39. (26) David Stremme, Toyota, Rear Gear, 25, $84,175.

40. (43) JJ Yeley, Toyota, Overheating, 16, $84,000.

41. (36) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, Overheating, 10, $83,825.

42. (37) Stephen Leicht, Chevrolet, Overheating, 4, $91,725.

43. (21) Michael McDowell, Ford, Overheating, 3, $84,093.

The Stats

Average Speed of Race Winner: 157.653 mph.

Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 32 Mins, 14 Secs.

Margin of Victory: Under caution.

Caution Flags: 6 for 23 laps.

Lead Changes: 12 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders: M. Kenseth 1-41; D. Ragan 42; J. Wise # 43-45; M. Truex Jr. 46-47; G. Biffle 48-82; C. Mears 83; M. Kenseth 84-123; Kyle Busch 124-126; D. Gilliland 127; Kyle Busch 128-130; T. Stewart 131-151; M. Kenseth 152-159; T. Stewart 160;.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): M. Kenseth 3 times for 89 laps; G. Biffle 1 time for 35 laps; T. Stewart 2 times for 22 laps; Kyle Busch 2 times for 6 laps; J. Wise # 1 time for 3 laps; M. Truex Jr. 1 time for 2 laps; C. Mears 1 time for 1 lap; D. Ragan 1 time for 1 lap; D. Gilliland 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 12 in Points: M. Kenseth – 676; D. Earnhardt Jr. – 651; G. Biffle – 632; J. Johnson – 618; T. Stewart – 592; K. Harvick – 586; D. Hamlin – 584; M. Truex Jr. – 584; B. Keselowski – 573; C. Bowyer – 572; C. Edwards – 541; Kyle Busch – 516.

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Saturday, July 7 2012
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