DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Tony Stewart made a late charge with the aid of outside pole-sitter Landon Cassill to steal the win from the tandem of Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr. by .007 seconds in Saturday’s 53rd annual DRIVE4COPD 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at historic Daytona International Speedway.
Stewart, who led five times for 13 laps, has dominated the season-opening NASCAR Nationwide Series event – winning four straight and six of the last seven. He is now just one shy of Dale Earnhardt’s record seven wins and is tied with Bobby Allison for the second-most wins all-time at the “World Center of Racing” with 16. The late Dale Earnhardt tops the list with 34.
“This is momentum and a great way to lead into tomorrow,” said Stewart, who was 11th with six laps to go. “There’s nothing better than going back to the motorhome tonight knowing you just won the race and have a shot of doing it tomorrow.”
Stewart’s surge at the finish line gave the No. 4 Kevin Harvick, Inc. Chevrolet the closest series finish at DIS and the third-closest finish in series history.
“Tony just used me when he needed to and that’s awesome,” said Cassill, who is the series’ points leader but doesn’t have a ride in next week’s race. “He taught me something. We swapped with two (laps) to go and he knew where to take the car and I don’t know if I could have done that like he did. I’m just happy to be pushing him through it and maybe next time I’ll be the one leading him through.”
Bowyer finished second with Cassill, Earnhardt Jr., and Reed Sorenson rounding out the top five, respectively.
Defending series champion Brad Keselowski kept his No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge near the front for most of the race until he was caught up in an incident on lap 106, breaking his record 102-straight races without a DNF.
Eight drivers swapped the lead a race-record tying 35 times and 12 drivers of the 43-car field completed all 120 laps around the 2.5-mile tri-oval. Danica Patrick led a lap in the No. 7 Chevrolet, making her the first woman to lead a NASCAR-sanctioned event at Daytona International Speedway.
A limited number of tickets for the 53rd annual Daytona 500 are available online at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.