Stewart Eyes Five in July
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on July 4, 2014 | 9:00 A.M. EST
Tony Stewart's stellar Daytona Int’l Speedway win total includes four trips to Victory Lane in the Coke Zero 400. (Photo: Getty Images)
Stewart enters the weekend as Daytona’s all-time race winner among active drivers with 19 victories. While he’s second on the track’s career win list, he still trails the late Dale Earnhardt by 15 wins.
But Stewart’s record remains one of the most remarkable in the sport and includes four trips to Victory Lane in the annual mid-summer classic Coke Zero 400.
His most recent triumph came in 2012 when he led 22 laps on his way to the win in a race that like most restrictor plate outings had its share of hurdles.
“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 recalled. “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 Daytona success, Stewart still won’t be categorized as a driver that is a fan of plate racing. He understands how much just plain old luck can play into the outcome of any race at Daytona or Talladega.
“Someone described racing on the superspeedways of being a combination of a science project and the luck of a casino, and it’s exactly that way,” said Stewart. “You do everything in your power to take care of the science or technology side. You do everything you can to build the fastest car. If you don’t have the luck to go with it – even if you don’t have any drama with getting the car touched, nothing happens to the car – if you’re just in the wrong spot at the wrong time, it can take you out of the opportunity to take the best racecar in the field and win.”
Stewart finds himself still winless in 2014 and after a slow start has shown signs of life in recent weeks. He’s 16th in the Sprint Cup Series standings and has a couple of top-five and five top-10 finishes to his credit.
But while Stewart can possibly find a way into the Chase though the point system, a win from now until September’s return to Richmond virtually locks him into a shot at running for a fourth career championship.
That could come Saturday night at Daytona but at this point Stewart won’t try any desperate maneuvers in the volatile environment of plate racing.
“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, your car’s torn up. It’s just a delicate balance of how hard you go, how many things you try, and how much time you spend doing it.”
Motor Racing Network – "The Voice of NASCAR" – will have live coverage of the Sprint Cup Series from Daytona Int’l Speedway. Air time for Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 is 6:30 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com.