NATIONWIDE Camping World 300Final
Stewart wins Nationwide race at DaytonaFeb 16, 2008 - 10:35 PM By Bruce Martin PA SportsTicker Contributing Editor
DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (Ticker) Tony Stewart had a simple explanation why his only three NASCAR Nationwide Series victories are at Daytona International Speedway.
"It means I suck everywhere else," Stewart said. "This is a race I always look forward to. I hope I can break this jinx of only being able to win at Daytona in this series."
Stewart became the first pole winner to win Saturday's Nationwide Series Camping World 300 at Daytona.
It was his 12th win at Daytona International Speedway and the first with Nationwide as the new series sponsor, replacing Busch beer after 25 years. It was Stewart's third-career Nationwide Series victory, all coming in this race.
Stewart's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch was second.
Stewart, who is another leading contender to win Sunday's 50th Daytona 500, has proven he can win in the older model race car at this track. Sunday's race will be with the new car, previously known as the Car of Tomorrow.
Stewart said his car was "invincible" before the race.
"It was fast; this thing had so much speed it as unreal," Stewart said. "We got the lead before that last pit stop. I went in there and pushed up off the bottom and left Kyle by himself them. When I moved up on the top lane it made my car drive a little better.
"Kyle really helped me with this race. I think Kyle and I could have stayed up front all day as well as the two of us were running."
Busch said on the long run he had the dominant car but was able to help push his teammate to the win. Busch also finished second in Friday night's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.
"I'm proud to see a Joe Gibbs Racing car go to victory lane nonetheless," Busch said. "He helped me out today. We work really, really well together."
Stewart's Toyota finished 0.259-seconds ahead of Busch. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was third in a Chevrolet followed by Brian Vickers' Toyota and Matt Kenseth's Ford.
"The high-line was our best shot; that's why I was in it," Earnhardt said after his third-place finish. "I knew I couldn't go low because that is where Tony's car was.
"I had a fun time driving my car today; it was really loose. Our only option today was running on the top. It was fun, we did what we had to do, it was a great finish but those two guys worked really well together in the draft."
With 20 laps to go, Busch was leading the race while Earnhardt lurked back in fifth place where he was getting some help from his former DEI teammate Martin Truex Jr.
With 13 laps to go, Vickers passed Busch briefly on the high-side but Busch's low-line worked much better.
With nine laps to go, Steven Wallace's car spun in the fourth turn triggering a wreck that included Kevin Harvick, Jason Keller, Johnny Sauter and Kirk Shelmerdine among others. It was the fourth caution of the race and set up the strategy for the dash to the checkered flag.
The green flag waved on lap 114 with Busch ahead of Stewart and Vickers.
With five laps to go Vickers went to the outside but once again couldn't pass the leader. But with four to go, Stewart was able to slide by to take the lead with Vickers and Busch trying to close in.
Meantime, Earnhardt had taken the high line in an attempt to get to Stewart's Toyota.
With one lap to go, Stewart went high before going low in the third turn.
His Toyota was just too fast for the other cars to catch him as Stewart drove to victory.
"I had a good time out there; had a great race car," Busch said after finishing second. "I could run wide-open anywhere I go. We just didn't have the speed built into it. Stewart's car was awesome and that's why we went back to the shop to try to match his. His car was too slick to match him in the long haul but we were able to stay with him."
Earnhardt complained that the tires were too slick for this style of race car but that's because of the age of the Daytona asphalt.
"We struggled all day because it was real slick," Earnhardt said. "We were lucky to be there and get a good finish."
Stewart's victory was worth $102,720, a huge paycheck by Nationwide Series standards.
There were 16 lead changes among eight drivers with Busch leading five times for 47 laps just one more than Stewart, who credited team owner Joe Gibbs with a great decision to add Busch to the team.
"Joe is a great leader; a great motivator and this week is proof of that," Stewart said. "We all wish his football career had ended differently.
"It's great to have him back. His biggest strength is knowing who to hire in the right positions. Kyle Busch was his latest stroke of genius. Kyle had the best handling car out there. We were close on speed and he was a great teammate to work with today."
Once in front of Busch, Stewart was confident he could keep his Toyota in front but had concern whether Busch could hold off the pack of drivers trying to pass him for second place.
"I wasn't worried about Kyle from my standpoint, I was worried for him," Stewart said. "He had a lot of pressure from my standpoint. As long it was a 1-2 finish for Gibbs we were going to be happy. It was a handful for him, Vickers got to the outside. Once we got to the top our car freed up.
"We got such a big run down the backstretch that when we got back to the front, how could we help our teammate again?"
Busch is competing in all three races this weekend which include Friday night's NCTS race, Saturday's Nationwide race and tomorrows Daytona 500.
"Instead of lying on the couch watching it, why not be participating in it? That's how I feel," Busch said.
Stewart did not race in the truck race but was among the many Cup drivers that competed on Saturday, even though what he learned in the Nationwide race no longer translates to the Cup car.
"The Cup drivers race on Saturday because they like racing," Stewart said. "It doesn't matter with the difference of cars because we are still running vastly different cars now and it hasn't stopped anybody from doing that.
Stewart, Busch and Earnhardt proved that point on Saturday.