DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Tony Stewart continued his dominance in the prestigious NASCAR Nationwide Series’ season opener at Daytona International Speedway leading the final 25 laps on his way to winning Saturday’s 52nd annual DRIVE4COPD 300.

For Stewart, it was his third straight DRIVE4COPD 300 win and the fifth time in the past six years that he has won the kick-off event to the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

In addition, Stewart notched his 15th career victory in a stock car at the “World Center of Racing,” which ties him with Cale Yarborough for the third-most on the all-time wins list behind Bobby Allison (16) and Dale Earnhardt (34).

Stewart won by a margin of .309 seconds with Carl Edwards taking second and Kevin Harvick nipping Justin Allgaier for third-place honors.

“That’s probably one of the most dominant cars I’ve ever had at Daytona,” said Stewart of his No. 4 Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet.

Stewart, who was one of a record-tying 12 drivers to lead the race and led three times for a race-high 38 laps, now has his eye on the big prize – Sunday’s Daytona 500.

“It’s cool when you win 15 times here in so many different things, but you come down here for one main goal, and that’s to win (the Daytona 500),” Stewart said. “That’s what everybody’s shooting for. I don’t want it to take away from what we did today (because) winning at Daytona, period, is special. But, every time we win here, it just makes me that much hungrier to win on Sunday now.”

For the second straight year, Edwards was once again the runner-up in the DRIVE4COPD 300.

“Pretty fun race there at the end,” Edwards said. “Tony’s car was just unbelievable all day. That thing was a rocket.” 

IZOD IndyCar Series Danica Patrick made her much-anticipated first NASCAR start but was collected in a multi-car incident on Lap 69 that cut her day short. Patrick, who will make her next NASCAR Nationwide Series start next weekend at Auto Club Speedway, settled for a 35th-place finish on Saturday.

Patrick’s car-owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., had similar problems. Earnhardt Jr.  was involved in a 10-car incident on the Superstretch.

Appearing as Grand Marshals for the race in support of the fight against Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) were actor Jim Belushi, football great Michael Strahan, country singer Patty Loveless, and Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner.

Tickets for the Hershey’s Milk & Milkshakes Speedweeks finale, the 52nd annual Daytona 500, are available by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. 

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