At DAYTONA As one of NASCAR’s greats takes his final ride around Daytona International Speedway as an active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, we reflect on some of the memories Tony Stewart has made at the “World Center of Racing.”
DAYTONA 500 Debut
Stewart’s 1999 Rookie of the Year campaign began at DAYTONA in his first race for Joe Gibbs Racing. The young driver started on the outside of the front row beside defending series champion Jeff Gordon, who would end up capturing his second DAYTONA 500. Though Stewart finished 28th, it wouldn’t take long for him to begin setting a new standard for rookie performances in NASCAR with a fourth-place finish in the series standings.
XFINITY Series Dominance
In what could be considered the most dominating run any driver has had in any one event, from 2005-2013, Stewart won the PowerShares QQQ 300 seven times, including a stretch of four consecutively. Perhaps most impressive is that he managed to win racing for four different teams: Kevin Harvick Inc. (2005, 2006, 2010, 2011), Joe Gibbs Racing (2008), Hendrick Motorsports (2009) and Richard Childress Racing (2013). While he’s tied with Dale Earnhardt Sr. at seven victories in the event, Stewart’s victories came over the span of nine years, compared to the 13 years it took Earnhardt to accomplish the feat.
First DAYTONA win
Stewart opened the 2001 season by winning the Unlimited, the non-points event that kicks off the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, as he passed six-time Unlimited champion Dale Earnhardt with less than two laps go to hold on to the victory by just .010 seconds. In a way, it was a symbolic passing of the torch between two of the most prolific drivers in the history of Daytona International Speedway as Stewart defeated the 22-time DAYTONA winner for his first victory in a restrictor-plate race and his first of what is now a second-best 19 career victories at DAYTONA.
Back-to-back Coke Zero 400s
Overall, Stewart won four Coke Zero 400s, which trails only five-time winner David Pearson. However, his most impressive stretch came in 2005-2006 when he became the first driver since Pearson in 1972-74 to win consecutive Coke Zero 400s. In fact, he remains the only driver not from the 1960s or 1970s to have accomplished the feat. Stewart is also the only driver to have back-to-back victories in the event, with over 40 drivers in the field. In both 2005 and 2006 he led 237 of the combined 320 laps (74 percent). To put his two-year dominance in context, Cale Yarborough, who led 54 percent of the laps during his consecutive victories, is the closest to Stewart in terms of percentage of laps led among the back-to-back champions.
Ultimately, Stewart holds several spots in the Coke Zero 400 record books with all-time marks for most victories from the pole position (2005, 2009), lowest starting position by a winner (42nd in 2012), and most laps led in a race (151 in 2005).
Be here to watch Stewart add another moment to his proud DAYTONA legacy. If you don't yet have tickets, buy today or call 1-800-PITSHOP.
If you're already coming, upgrade your experience with Sprint FANZONE/Pre-Race access, giving you access to driver appearances, the Montgomery Gentry Pre-Race concert, terrific views of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garages and much more!