Stewart barrels his way to win

Last-lap wreck costs Kyle Busch

Staff WriterJuly 5, 2009 

  • 1. Tony Stewart

    2. Jimmie Johnson

    3. Denny Hamlin

    4. Carl Edwards

    5. Kurt Busch

— For Tony Stewart, the night time has been the right time at Daytona.

Still without a victory in the Daytona 500, Stewart earned his third victory in the July night race at Daytona International Speedway, holding off Jimmie Johnson and wrecking Kyle Busch on Saturday night to win the Coke Zero 400.

Stewart also won the July races in 2005 and 2006.

The win is the second of the season for the Sprint Cup points leader and 35th of his career.

Busch had passed Stewart with one lap to go, but Stewart got drafting help from Jimmie Johnson to close on Busch.

Busch tried to block Stewart moving down the track on the final lap but made contact when he moved up to block again.

The contact sent Busch into the outside wall and caused multiple crashes behind them, but Stewart crossed the finish line unscathed.

"That's not the way I wanted to do it," he said.

Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Stewart and Denny Hamlin took turns at the lead early in the race.

Mark Martin and Matt Kenseth made contact on Lap 13 to bring out the first caution of the race. After turning across the track, Martin nearly collected Juan Pablo Montoya as well. On the restart on Lap 17, Stewart led, followed by Hamlin and Johnson.

A single-car spin by Casey Mears on Lap 28 brought out the second caution and sent all the lead-lap cars to pit road for fuel and tires. Stewart continued to lead on the restart on Lap 32.

A caution for debris on Lap 57 allowed lead-lap cars another chance to pit. On the restart on Lap 62, Kenseth was the leader, followed by Robby Gordon and Stewart.

Kasey Kahne hit David Stremme from behind on the backstretch and ignited a 13-car wreck on Lap 77 which also collected Jeff Gordon, Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick and Michael Waltrip, among others.

"I just saw some guys getting together in front of me. The track's real slick. It's not wide enough for three-wide or two-wide racing sometimes; these cars are just sliding around, and everybody had to be careful," Earnhardt said.

"I guess there were a couple of guys going for the same piece of real estate there, and I tried to stay high [on the track] because I thought they would spin down off the wall and [David Reutimann] got crossed up trying to miss them and we hit him."

The remaining lead-lap cars visited pit road for fuel and tires, and on the restart on Lap 83, Stewart was back out front, followed by Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Johnson.

Reutimann wrecked again on Lap 102 to bring out the fifth caution of the race. After pit stops, Stewart remained in the lead, followed by Hamlin and Kyle Busch.

While jockeying for position on the backstretch on Lap 122, David Ragan slid in front of Kurt Busch and was sent spinning into the infield grass to bring out the sixth caution.

A caution for debris was displayed on Lap 146, which allowed the field a final stop for fuel and fresh tires with 15 laps remaining. On the restart on Lap 150, Stewart stayed out front, followed by Kyle Busch and Hamlin.

AJ Allmendinger got into Scott Speed and knocked him into the wall to bring out a caution three laps later. Lead-lap cars stayed on the track with Stewart again in the lead on the restart with four laps remaining.

jutter@charlotteobserver.com or 704-358-5113

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