Although he had a bit of a problem explaining how he did it Tony Stewart notched his fourth Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
The reigning and three time Sprint Cup champ negotiated his way to through traffic to overtake the previously dominant and defending Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth for what would be his third win of the season.
“I wish I could explain it,” said Stewart, who has five restrictor-plate victories in Sprint Cup, with four coming at Daytona. “The great thing about restrictor-plate racing is that 43 cars all have the same shot at winning the race, but that’s also part of what makes it frustrating, too.
“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.”
Stewart, driving a Chevrolet, took the lead on lap 131 of the 160-lap after a multi-car accident in turn four and led for 21 laps before relinquishing the spot to the Ford duo of Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle on lap 152. The second of three multi-car crash set the stage for a two-lap shootout.
Stewart regained the lead on the final lap with an impressive drive around Biffle and Kenseth off turn two and down the backstretch. The key was breaking up the Kenseth and Biffle drafting team.
“The biggest challenge was the ‘17’ (Kenseth) and ‘16’ (Biffle) cars, and when they hooked up, I don’t think there was anybody that could beat them,” Stewart said.
“But we were able to stay in touch with them, and I got a great restart with Kasey Kahne helping me. I’m not sure how he got shuffled back there in (turns) one and two, but we just had to try to separate the ‘17’ and ‘16’ there.
“And 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.”
“I’m really disappointed,” said Kenseth who fell to third. “My team deserved to be down there holding the hardware and I let them down. Daytona has been wonderful to us this year… 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.”
Jeff Burton, who survived in a Chevrolet to finish seoncd, said “Kevin (Harvick) and I had a good run going and just had nowhere to go. I did my little thing in turn one, saved it and then they wrecked off turn four and ended up with a good finish. Anytime you can leave here with a car not torn up you probably ought to be happy.”
Biffle ended up 21st.