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Stewart Shines at Daytona

Armor All Driver Wins Nationwide Series Race from the Pole

Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart ended his victory drought in the season-opening NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The driver of the No. 20 Armor All Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) started from the pole and led three times for 46 laps in the Camping World 300 before recording his third career Nationwide Series win.

His two previous Nationwide Series wins came back-to-back at Daytona’s season-opener in 2005 and 2006. Stewart finished eighth in last year’s race, and he was happy to be back in victory lane.

“We’ve had good luck here,” said an understated Stewart, who when you combine his Nationwide Series triumphs with his success in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the defunct International Race of Champions, now has 12 career victories at Daytona. “Obviously, with all three of our Nationwide Series wins being here, this is a race I look forward to.”

In addition to Stewart winning from the pole, he won with the help of his JGR teammate Kyle Busch. The two drivers ran 1-2 for much of the 120-lap race, with Busch giving Stewart the necessary drafting help to propel him into the lead and keep him there when the checkered flag dropped.

“Kyle ran a great race today,” Stewart said. “I think he probably had the best-handling car out there. We were real close on speed, and we probably sacrificed a little handling to get that speed.

“He was awesome to work with today – a great teammate. There were a lot of times late in the race where we would stay together, and we just pushed each other to help clear ourselves from the rest of the pack to make sure we could get away.”

And get away they did, giving JGR its first 1-2 finish in Nationwide Series history and first since Stewart and Denny Hamlin finished 1-2 in last year’s Sprint Cup Series race at the Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International road course in August.

“We really worked hard at staying with each other today,” said Stewart of Busch, who came to JGR from Hendrick Motorsports this off-season. “I think no matter how long this race was going to be, if we had to run another hundred laps, another pit stop, as long as we could stay together, we were going to be a pretty strong combination.”

“I didn’t have a car that was going to win the race,” said Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota. “Stewart was far enough ahead that he was going to win already. I didn’t block for Stewart any more than I did just to keep myself propelled in second.”

The 1-2 finish put the JGR cars 1-2 in owner points. With the first of 35 Nationwide Series races in the books, the No. 20 car is first with 190 points while the No. 18 car is second with 180 points. In third is the No. 5 car of Hendrick Motorsports with 165 points.

“We had Armor All on the car this weekend and it’s the only race we have with them all year,” Stewart said. “To go out and get the pole yesterday and to see them the day before the race and see how excited they were… it was really cool to finish it off with a win today.”

In third behind the JGR juggernaut was Dale Earnhardt Jr., while Brian Vickers and Matt Kenseth secured the rest of the top-five. Rookie Bryan Clauson, Greg Biffle, Hamlin (driving for Braun Racing), David Ragan and Carl Edwards comprised the remainder of the top-10.

The next event on the Nationwide Series schedule is the Feb. 23 Stater Bros. 300 at California Speedway in Fontana. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by ESPN2 beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m. The race will also be broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 128.

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