Tony Stewart rebounded from a flat tire on his No. 4 Kevin Harvick, Inc., car that dropped him to 11th-place with six NASCAR Nationwide Series race laps remaining at Daytona International Speedway today by teaming with partner Landon Cassill in the No. 1 Phoenix Racing machine to draft to a .007-of-a-second 300-mile race victory over Clint Bowyer in his No. 33 Richard Childress Racing car. Four pairs of drafting partners jockeyed for the race lead through the closing five laps. Stewart and Cassill trailed the tandem of Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., on the final lap exiting Turn 4, but were able to generate enough closing momentum on the frontstretch to allow Stewart to capture the checkered flag.
Stewart seized his fourth straight and sixth career Nationwide Series victory along with his 16th overall triumph at the legendary speedway after passing Cassill at the exit of Turn 1 with two laps remaining in the race. Cassill guided his No. 1 to Stewart's No. 4 back bumper in Turn 2 to provide the drafting push necessary to fuel the final surge to the Start/Finish Line.
"It was so scary when the tire went down. I thought we were going to be a lot further back on the restart.
"We knew he (Cassill) had good speed and we had good speed. When we stayed lined up directly behind him, we could run the fastest lap time, but I couldn't keep the car cool enough so I had to switch. I think he was good enough to go ahead and win it, but they (Bowyer and Earnhardt, Jr.) had him trapped enough to where he didn't feel he had the right lane to go to. I was confident I could get to the right spot at the right time.
"This is a great way to lead into tomorrow. Nothing better than knowing you have a shot to do it again," Stewart said after leading 13 race of 120 race laps.
Cassill placed third, Earnhardt, Jr., claimed fourth in the No. 5 JR Motorsports car and Reed Sorenson completed the race top five in the No. 32 Turner Motorsports machine.
"I needed a little bit of lead on the second group coming off Turn 4 to make my move. When Tony and Landon were that close and coming up on the outside of us, that made Landon the most loyal guy in the group because Tony had a pusher all the way across the finish line.
"I should've just pushed Clint because I think I could've kept him in the lead for the win, but I wanted to see what I could do, see what I could learn for tomorrow. Everything happened about how I thought it would," Earnhardt, Jr., said after posting his 10th top-five and 12th top-10 career Nationwide Series finish at Daytona.
Eight drivers tied the series track lead-change record originally set in 1986 at 35. The race lead-change total is one shy of the all-time series record set at Talladega Superspeedway in April 2007.
The next series race will take the green flag at Phoenix International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 26. Coverage begins at 5:00 p.m. on Motor Racing Network radio and 5:30 p.m. on ESPN2.
The series visits Kentucky Speedway July 8 as part of the track's inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend.
Story by Mike Schmaltz