DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 14, 2009) — After a thrilling half-lap battle to kick off the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series season, Tony Stewart took the checkered flag to win Saturday’s 51st annual Camping World 300 at Daytona International Speedway.
Stewart — who has won this race four of the last five years — had the lead on the final run down the superstrech, with Kyle Busch attached to his bumper. Busch got Stewart loose between Turns 3 and 4, but Stewart straightened out his No. 80 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to maintain the lead coming off of Turn 4. Carl Edwards—with a push from defending series-champion Clint Bowyer—moved ahead of Busch coming out of Turn 4 to make it a three-wide battle on the straightaway approaching the checkered flag. Edwards finished second and Bowyer third, edging out Busch for the podium finish.
“I got really, really loose,” Stewart said. “Kyle pushed me all the way through the corner. I don’t know how we held on to it, but I think he cut us a break off of [Turn] 4.
“I’m ecstatic about [the win]. It’s the first time I’ve gotten to drive for Mr. [Rick] Hendrick. Just an unbelievable run today.”
The victory gave Stewart his 13th win at “The World Center of Racing,” in this, Hendrick Motorsports’ 25th year of racing.
“It was a real special, special win,” Hendrick said. “After watching [Tony] win this race so many times on Saturday, it was good to have him in our car doing it. It’s been a long time since we’ve won a Saturday race in Daytona, so it’s a real special feeling.”
Bowyer bucked trend by keeping his tires for the final 47 laps, while both Stewart and Edwards took on their last set of tires with 29 laps to go. When the sixth and final caution of the day came out with just nine laps remaining, the lead pack came down pit road for tires, while Stewart, Edwards and Bowyer all stayed out. The strategy paid off.
“It was so cool,” Edwards said. “Clint was pushing me, and I thought about really ramming it in there on the outside of Tony, but I thought: ‘I know I’m going to hit the wall, and I’m going to tear this thing up.’ I still didn’t think I was going to be able to beat him, so I gave him a little room. It ended up working out OK. I wanted to win this thing, but it was still just a fun race. That’s a heck of a way to start the year.”
Eleven drivers traded the lead 18 times. Bowyer’s No. 29 Holiday Inn Chevrolet led 33 of 120 laps—the most of any driver.
“It was fun [but] frustrating,” Bowyer said. “I want to win here bad. This is the place you work your butt off to get to, and I want to win. But we’ll have to wait for it.
“I knew Kyle was going to try to do something. I really thought he’d try to change it up from what he did [during the Camping World Truck Series race] last night [which] didn’t work. But he did the same thing, and it didn’t work again.”
While there are no grandstand tickets available, infield tickets remain for Sunday’s 51st annual Daytona 50—NASCAR’s biggest, richest and most prestigious race. For more ticket information on all DIS events, call 1-800-PITSHOP or visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com