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“Experience is Everything” for Stewart at Darlington

Old Spice Driver Captures First Darlington Win in Dominating Fashion

Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart showed that “Experience is Everything” as he dominated Friday night’s Diamond Hill Plywood 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway to take his first win of any kind at the track “Too Tough to Tame.”

The driver of the No. 20 Old Spice Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) started third and led three times for a race-high 90 laps en route to his fourth Nationwide Series win of the season. The win also marked the fourth consecutive victory for the No. 20 Nationwide Series team, as Kyle Busch drove the No. 20 to victory at Mexico City before Stewart won with the No. 20 at Talladega (Ala.), which was followed by Denny Hamlin’s win last week at Richmond (Va.).

“It’s just been such an honor to drive the Old Spice car for Dave Rogers (crew chief) and all of these guys on the 20 team,” said Stewart, who helped Joe Gibbs Racing score its sixth consecutive Nationwide series win and its eighth Nationwide Series victory this season. “It’s not the drivers, I’m telling you that. It’s been here with three different guys, so it’s this team behind us and all of the guys at JGR who do such an awesome job.”

The win was yet another meaningful triumph for Stewart, as it was his first victory in 20 total starts at Darlington – 15 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and five in the Nationwide Series. Stewart’s best Darlington finish prior to Friday night’s Diamond Hill Plywood 200 was fourth in the Sprint Cup events in March 2000 and November 2001.

“At the start of this year we had never won at California, Las Vegas, Talladega or Darlington,” said Stewart, whose previous best Nationwide Series result at Darlington came last May when he finished seventh. “Thanks to Dave (Rogers) and the guys on the 20 car on the Nationwide Series side, we’ve now conquered three of those four and should’ve won the fourth one (Las Vegas), but I’m not going to be greedy. It’s pretty special to get four wins with these guys this year at three of the tracks I haven’t won at before.”

At the drop of the green flag, Stewart knew his Old Spice Toyota was a car to be reckoned with as he quickly took the lead on lap 14. He led the next 39 laps before giving up the top spot to Busch just prior to pitting for fresh tires and fuel on lap 57. Stewart re-took the lead on lap 65 after a strong pit stop by the Old Spice team got him out front. He held the lead for 22 more laps before surrendering the point when he pitted for the last time on lap 87. Stewart took back the top spot for the final time on lap 121 and handily led the final 29 laps, as Mark Martin and then Clint Bowyer were unable to mount a charge on the final two restarts of the race.

In a crash-filled event that saw a total of eight cautions and two red flag periods, Stewart’s “experience” proved valuable in keeping his Old Spice machine in front and out of harms way.

“You’ve got to be there at the end to win, and that’s what we did. Dave (Rogers) reminded me early in the race that the ‘Lady’s’ got a new dress, but it’s the same old Darlington,” said Stewart, referring to the 58-year-old track’s other nickname – the Lady in Black. “I knew saving my stuff was going to be really important. With the rich heritage and history here at Darlington – to win here and be the first guy to win after they resurfaced it – it’s a feeling that’s hard to describe. It’s just cool to win at Darlington.”

Stewart’s sixth career Nationwide Series win extended the No. 20 car’s lead in the Nationwide Series owner standings to 127 points over of the No. 2 entry of Richard Childress Racing after 12 of 35 races.

The eight aforementioned caution periods totaled 36 laps, with 20 drivers failing to finish the 149-lap race, which was extended two laps past its scheduled 147-lap distance due to a green-white-checkered flag finish.

Finishing .814 of a second behind Stewart in the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 was runner-up Clint Bowyer, while David Reutimann, Todd Bodine and Steve Wallace rounded out the top-five. David Stremme, Jason Keller, Chase Miller, Jason Leffler and Marcos Ambrose comprised the remainder of the top-10.

The Nationwide Series takes a rare weekend off before heading to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for the May 24 Carquest 300. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT 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.

Stewart returns to the No. 20 Old Spice Toyota June 28 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon for the Camping World 200.

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