DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – Tony Stewart added another win at Daytona International Speedway to his resume, driving his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet from the 42nd starting position to the first, to win his fourth Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola in eight years in a gripping green-white-checkered finish.
With the win, Stewart now has 18 career victories at the “World Center of Racing” – second all-time behind Dale Earnhardt (34). The win was also Stewart’s third of the year and ties him with Brad Keselowski for the most victories this season.
“This is 18 wins at Daytona,” said Stewart. “All of them are special and it’s the second time this year we’ve been in Victory Lane at Daytona, so I’m really proud of (my crew). I wish I could trade a couple of these races in for just one Sunday race in February. It’s just being at the right place at the right time. We’re still trying to win the Daytona 500.”
Jeff Burton had a season-best second-place finish and defending Daytona 500 champion and current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader Matt Kenseth was third.
Kenseth put the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford on the pole and dominated most of the race with teammate Greg Biffle; the two combined to lead 124 of the 160 laps with Kenseth leading a race-high 89 – the most laps he’s led in a race on the 2.5-mile tri-oval. On the final restart, the tandem of Kenseth and Biffle valiantly battled that of Stewart and Kasey Kahne until the No. 14 car shot to the front on the Superstrech.
“I’m really disappointed,” said Kenseth. “My team deserved to be down there holding the hardware and I let them down. Daytona has been wonderful to us this year, starting last July when we were able to push David (Ragan) to his win and finish second. Obviously, I had a really good Speedweeks and then came down here and sat on the pole and led the most laps. We had one of the fastest cars and had a good finish. It’s hard to be disappointed with that, but the racer in you, when you have a car like that, you certainly want to figure out how to try to win with it.”
Stewart, who started 42nd after his Office Depot Chevrolet failed post-qualifying inspection and his second-place qualifying time was disallowed, made the longest trek through the field for a win in the Coke Zero 400 – the record was previously held by Bill Elliott who won from 38th-place in 1988. Stewart stayed at the back for most of the race before picking off competitors to take the lead on lap 131.
“I was a little too cautious at the beginning…and we lost touch with the lead pack,” said Stewart, who gained four positions in the point standings and now sits in fifth. “We got a caution and regrouped and made sure that when the green came out I didn’t wait this time.”
Multi-platinum, Grammy-winning band Train kicked off the pre-race show with a 60-minute concert and HLN morning personality and country singer Robin Meade performed the national anthem. DIS honored four Congressional Medal of Honor recipients from the Vietnam War as a flag that flew on the USS Eisenhower waved in the background.
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