Stewart Lets It Slip Away

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Tony Stewart seemed headed to his first career Daytona 500 victory until a last lap decision cost him a win in "The Great American Race."

Stewart took the white flag as the leader of the 500 but wound up crossing the finish line third the next time the field came around to take the checkered flag.

Teammates Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch worked together to draft around Stewart on the final circuit and in the end it was a 1-2 finish for Penske Racing and a third for Stewart.

"I'm disappointed, obviously," Stewart said. "It would be a lie to come in here and say I was happy about going from first to third on the last lap of the Daytona 500.

"I just made the wrong decision on the backstretch. I tried to get down in front of (teammate) Kyle Busch and thought I would get a push down there. And then the 2 (Kurt Busch) got glued to the 12 (Newman)."

Stewart and Kyle Busch couldn't hook-up like they'd hoped, a situation that ultimately cost Stewart and Joe Gibbs Racing a Daytona 500 win.

"Stewart could've went up and blocked the momentum of the 12 (Ryan Newman) and the 2 (Kurt Busch), but he decided to stick down low and stay with me to see what we could come up with," Kyle said. "I wasn't getting a big enough push from behind to get up to his back bumper. Once I did get to the back bumper, I just held the gas down.

"I didn't care how hard I hit him - it was coming to the checkered flag."

Stewart could only guess what might have been.

"We had two of the fastest cars, both Kyle and I," Stewart said. "When we could get a run they absolutely flew. I was hoping to pull Kyle along. I knew the 2 was behind the 12 and I'd rather have my teammate behind me than two teammates from another team behind me.

"I made the wrong decision, obviously. As fast as they were coming I don't know that it wouldn't have wrecked me if I blocked anyway."

In the end it wasn't a victory but Stewart tried to put things in perspective.

"In hindsight, on Monday I'm going to be a lot happier about it," Stewart said. "But I thought we were going to have a fun hair-cutting party in here tonight."

Stewart had promised the media if he won the Daytona 500, he would let them cut his long hair.

"It's probably one of the most disappointing moments of my racing career," Stewart said with a shrug.

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