DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – There was no fire or rain. Still, another frantic finish at Daytona International Speedway.
Tony Stewart emerged the winner, charging past Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth on the last lap and holding on as the challengers stacked up behind him Saturday night in one of Daytona’s trademark wrecks.
“I don’t even remember what happened that last lap,” said Stewart.
Stewart has 18 victories at Daytona, second only to the late Dale Earnhardt. None of his wins is in the Daytona 500, though.
Stewart is 0 for 14 in NASCAR’s biggest race of the year and was a non-factor in February, when the race was delayed a day by rain and then stopped more than two hours for a massive jet dryer fire.
But he’s always strong in the summer race at Daytona, and this visit was no different.
Stewart qualified second but dropped back to 42nd at the start of the race because his time was thrown out by NASCAR after his Chevrolet failed inspection. He quietly rode around – which is his style at restrictor-plate races – and let Roush Fenway Racing teammates Kenseth and Greg Biffle control the front.
“We were going to try to win the thing and be there at the end,” Biffle said. “We were right there.”
The Roush drivers thought they had the field covered – Kenseth led a race-high 89 laps and Biffle led 35 – and they probably still liked their chances on the final green-white-checkered restart. Kenseth was the leader with Biffle on his bumper, as second-place Stewart was lined up with Kasey Kahne.
Kenseth and Biffle pulled away for a lap, but Stewart came quick on the outside, moved to the front, then crossed down the track in front of Kenseth for the lead. Seconds later, Biffle seemed to wiggle in traffic and cars began wrecking all over the track in what was tallied to be a 15-car accident.
“I’m not really sure what happened, they just started wrecking behind us,” said Kenseth, who started from the pole in his bid to become the first driver since 1982 to sweep the two Daytona races in the same season.
“It seems like we always end these things in green-white-checkers, and whenever you do, really anybody that’s in the front few tandems has a shot to win the thing. It’s so unpredictable. It’s really hard to figure. You sit out there and ride around and be leading the whole race and come down to one of the green-white-checkers and have no idea where you’re going to finish.”
The final results showed Jeff Burton came from nowhere to finish second in a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, followed by Kenseth in a Ford and Joey Logano in a Toyota.
Biffle, who was in third on the final restart, dropped all the way to 21st and said the accident started when Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave Kevin Harvick a big push, and Biffle turned in front of Harvick.
“He got a hell of a shove off the front of Junior … I’m like, ‘It’s impossible that somebody could get into that hole that quick,’ ” Biffle said. “But he got squirted off the bumper of (Earnhardt) and shot in there. It was my fault.”
Roughly 90 minutes before the race, NASCAR announced AJ Allmendinger had been suspended for failing a random drug test taken last week at Kentucky.
|2.||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||651|
|8.||Martin Truex Jr.||584|