Stewart Stellar in July at Daytona
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on July 4, 2013 | 8:01 P.M. EST
When it comes to the annual summer visit to “The World Center of Racing” Stewart is definitely no slouch. He is the defending winner of the Coke Zero 400 and has four July victories in the past eight seasons. (Photo: Getty Images)
Tony Stewart looks to add to his stellar Daytona International Speedway record in Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400.
After Stewart’s Nationwide Series win last February, he has a total of 19 Daytona wins, placing him second on the track’s all-time win list, 15 behind Dale Earnhardt, who has 34 total victories at Daytona.
When it comes to the annual summer visit to “The World Center of Racing” Stewart is definitely no slouch. He is the defending winner of the Coke Zero 400 and has four July victories in the past eight seasons.
The three-time Sprint Cup Series champion recalled how he was able to take the checkered flag a year ago.
“The biggest challenge was Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle because when they hooked up, I didn’t think there was anybody that could beat them,” Stewart explained. “But we were able to stay in touch with them, and I got a great restart with Kasey Kahne helping me. We just had to try to separate Matt and Greg. 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 (turns) three and four and the last wreck happened, and we were just fortunate enough to be leading still.”
Despite his success, Stewart is still not a huge fan of restrictor plate racing and has at times been an outspoken critic of competing at both Daytona and Talladega. But Stewart does have a knack for being able to stay ahead of the field and away from the problems, at least at Daytona.
“I’m certainly not any happier about it than I’ve always been, but we have had a lot of success at restrictor-plate tracks, especially Daytona,” he said. “I’m glad we’re halfway decent at it, but it’s still always frustrating when you have to rely on what everybody else does. It’s not what you do. It’s what you do along with somebody else who decides that they’re going to follow you and help you. That’s the part that frustrates you as a driver.”
Part of Stewart’s trepidation towards plate racing is the loss of control in the draft and being at the mercy of other driver’s decisions – and mistakes.
“It’s trial and error, but at the same time, it’s like pulling a pin on a grenade,” said Stewart. “You know through that process that if one guy makes a mistake, the car’s torn up for the race. It’s just a delicate balance of how hard you go, how many things you try, and how much time you spend doing it.”
While there are still those who excel better than others in restrictor plate racing, Stewart knows the playing field is leveled perhaps more so than any other events on the schedule.
“The great thing about restrictor-plate racing though is that 43 cars all have the same shot at winning the race, but again, that’s also part of what makes it frustrating, too,” he said.