Smoke Rises Again in Daytona

Tony Stewart

Stewart moved into sole possession of 14th on the all-time list with his 47th career win. (Photo: Getty Images)

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Tony Stewart came from the 42nd starting spot to score his fourth career Coke Zero 400 victory Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway.

Stewart, who had his second fast qualifying time disallowed on Friday for an illegal cooling hose found in inspection, was forced to start in the rear of the field Saturday night. But he made his way to the front when it counted and held off Jeff Burton and Matt Kenseth to take his fourth career Coke Zero 400 win.

It was the defending series champion’s third win of the season tying him with Brad Keselowski for the Sprint Cup lead. Stewart’s 47th career Sprint Cup win was also the 18th time he’s won at Daytona.

“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,” said Stewart. “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.”

The dash to the checkered flag came with two laps to go after a late race multi-car crash and Stewart found himself fighting Roush Fenway Racing teammates Biffle and Kenseth for the top spot.

Stewart drafted with Kasey Kahne as the two pairs of drivers battled to the white flag before Kenseth and Biffle pulled away.

But as the field came through turn four, Biffle wiggled just enough to allow Stewart to slip to the front and he raced to the victory as cars crashed behind him.

“I don’t even remember what happened,” said Stewart. “In the second turn we tried to get the 17 and 16 pulled apart, and, once we did, it gave us a run on the outside. It was just a weird day. I’m still voting for a figure-8 race here.”

At the finish it was Burton and Kenseth behind Stewart.

“We finished fifth here in the 500 and second tonight, so two top five down here is probably more than I can expect with all the wrecks and stuff,” said Burton. “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.”

Kenseth was forced to settle for a third-place finish rather than a Daytona season sweep.

“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. You do things those last two laps that you'd never do the rest of the race. 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."

Joey Logano and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five.

Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski, Michael Waltrip and Bobby Labonte completed the first 10 finishers.

Although the night started quietly with no cautions in the first half of the 160-lap event it ended with a series of multi-car accidents.

The first “Big One” occurred on lap 91 as Friday night’s Nationwide Series race winner Kurt Busch bobbled in the middle of a pack of traffic. Busch made contact with slid Trevor Bayne and Bobby Labonte among others was also involved.

Another melee broke out on lap 124 when cars were trying to make it down pit road only to make contact including Jimmie Johnson, who was tagged from behind by Martin Truex Jr. and sent headfirst into the inside retaining wall.

Johnson was not injured in the violent crash that also saw Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Logano, Waltrip, Truex Jr. and Regan Smith tangle.

The last chain reaction crash started when Denny Hamlin wiggled in mid-pack as the pack raced just past the start-finish line. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver bounced off several cars and before it was over Bayne, Juan Pablo Montoya, Clint Bowyer, Gordon, Kyle Busch and Marcos Ambrose were swept up.

Kenseth increased his Sprint Cup Series point lead to 25 over Dale Earnhardt Jr. with Biffle, Johnson and Stewart the top five.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series now heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for next Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301.

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