Tony Stewart became the second driver in as many weeks to capture his third win of the season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – this time in a near-last-to-first come-from-behind triumph in Daytona's Coke Zero 400.
NASCAR officials discovered an open cooling hose in Stewart's cockpit after he had qualified second behind Matt Kenseth on Friday, and his time was disallowed. Starting 42nd, Stewart hung in the 20s through the first half of the race, then progressively moved forward.
The final restart after a 14-car accident on lap 153, Stewart was able to separate the dominant lead pair of Roush Fenway Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle to score the win. It's also his fourth in the last eight July races at Daytona.
“I don't even remember what happened that last lap,” Stewart said in his post-race TV interview. “I just tried to get the 17 and 16 pulled apart, and that gave us a run on the outside. It showed what Mobil 1 can do. We were so good on the restarts. It was a weird day.”
Kenseth, who led a race-high 89 laps, fell to third after getting split from his drafting partner.
“It's just disappointing – Greg and I, we had the best cars,” said Kenseth. “I made the wrong moves by not keeping Greg with me. Once we got separated out of (Turn) 2, I shoulda stayed with Tony, but I laid back to catch (Greg) up. There was a big wreck behind me. Think how Greg coulda kept up with me perfectly.”
Biffle was involved in one of three major accidents on the evening, as the second half of the race played itself out. Biffle's came as nearly 10 cars wrecked off Turn 4 on the last lap, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffering the worst of it as he was speared into the outside wall and without the SAFER barrier. Earnhardt was classified 15th, Biffle 21st.
The aforementioned 14-car accident on lap 153 saw Denny Hamlin, racing with a bad back, involved after contact carried through the tri-oval and into Turn 1. And an earlier accident saw Jimmie Johnson get tapped out of Turn 4 and hit the inside retaining SAFER wall, with the force of impact again lifting the rear of his car.
All drivers were OK despite the accidents. Another scary moment occurred earlier in the race when in pit lane, Jeff Gordon contacted Ryan Newman with Newman then spinning, backwards, into Brad Keselowski's pit. All of the Keselowski crew and the NASCAR official in the pit were able to clear out before being contacted.
After riding behind most of the carnage, Jeff Burton rose to a season-high best finish of second, with Kenseth third, Joey Logano fourth and Newman fifth. Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Michael Waltrip, Bobby Labonte and David Reutimann completed the top 10.
Sam Hornish Jr., called in as a last-minute replacement for the suspended A.J. Allmendinger at Penske Racing, came home 33rd after a flat left-rear tire sent him into a spin at half-distance to cause the race's first caution. He rode around to finish the rest of the race, driving a car with the Shell Pennzoil colors for the first time since 2003 in IndyCar, when he drove for Panther Racing.
Kenseth maintains the series points lead, and nobody jumped into or fell out of the top 10 from a week ago. Stewart jumped to fifth in points, with Clint Bowyer in 10th, and Kyle Busch and Logano still the two leading wild card drivers after Daytona.
The series heads to Loudon, N.H. next week, the last in the six-race summer stretch of races broadcast on TNT.
Results - 160 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Chevrolet 2h32m14.000s
2. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 0.111s
3. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford + 0.403s
4. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota + 0.951s
5. Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Chevrolet + 2.317s
6. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 2.911s
7. Kasey Kahne Hendrick Chevrolet + 2.953s
8. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge + 3.007s
9. Michael Waltrip Waltrip Toyota + 3.008s
10. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 3.010s
11. David Reutimann Baldwin Chevrolet + 3.303s
12. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 7.418s
13. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 8.005s
14. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 8.085s
15. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 9.144s
16. Travis Kvapil BK Toyota + 11.103s
17. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 12.587s
18. Casey Mears Germain Ford + 12.588s
19. Aric Almirola Petty Ford + 14.640s
20. Terry Labonte FAS Lane Ford + 15.497s
21. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 22.862s
22. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet + 23.813s
23. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet + 1 lap
24. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota + 1 lap
25. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota + 4 laps
26. David Ragan Front Row Ford + 6 laps*
27. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford + 8 laps*
28. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 8 laps*
29. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Toyota + 8 laps*
30. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 8 laps*
31. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 8 laps*
32. Landon Cassill BK Toyota + 9 laps
33. Sam Hornish Jr Penske Dodge + 11 laps
34. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet + 27 laps
35. Kurt Busch Phoenix Chevrolet + 28 laps
Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet 124 laps
Bill Elliott Turner Chevrolet 123 laps
Josh Wise Front Row Ford 47 laps
David Stremme Inception Toyota 25 laps
JJ Yeley Robinson-Blakeney Toyota 16 laps
Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 10 laps
Stephen Leicht Circle SportChevrolet 4 laps
Michael McDowell Parsons Ford 3 laps
* Involved in late accident, not running at flag