DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.
There was no fire or rain. Still, there was another frantic finish at Daytona International Speedway.
Tony Stewart emerged the winner, charging past Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth on the last lap and holding on as the challengers stacked up behind him Saturday night in one of Daytona’s trademark wrecks.
“I don’t even remember what happened that last lap,” Stewart said.
He has 18 victories at Daytona, second only to the late Dale Earnhardt.
Stewart qualified second but started near the back of the field because his time was thrown out by NASCAR when his Chevrolet failed inspection. He rode around in the back for much of the event, letting Roush Fenway Racing teammates Kenseth and Greg Biffle control the front.
The Roush drivers thought they had the field covered and probably still liked their chances on the final green-white-checkered restart. Kenseth was the leader with Biffle on his bumper, as second-place Stewart was lined up with Kasey Kahne.
Kenseth and Biffle pulled away for a lap, but Stewart came quick on the outside, moved to the front, then crossed down the track in front of Kenseth for the lead. Seconds later, Biffle seemed to wiggle in traffic and cars began wrecking all over the track.
“I’m not really sure what happened; they just started wrecking behind us,” said Kenseth, who started from the pole in his bid to become the first driver since 1982 to sweep the two Daytona races in the same season.
“It seems like we always end these things in green-white-checkers, and whenever you do, really anybody that’s in the front few tandems has a shot to win the thing. It’s so unpredictable. You do things those last two laps that you’d never do the rest of the race. It’s really hard to figure. You sit out there and ride around and be leading the whole race and come down to one of the green-white-checkers and have no idea where you’re going to finish.”
The final results showed Jeff Burton came from nowhere to finish second in a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, followed by Kenseth in a Ford and Joey Logano in a Toyota.
Stewart teammate Ryan Newman, who was involved in a pit road incident with Kahne and Jeff Gordon, finished fifth. Roush driver Carl Edwards was sixth and was followed by Kahne, Brad Keselowski in a Dodge and Michael Waltrip. Bobby Labonte rounded out the top 10.
Biffle, who was in third on the final restart, dropped all the way to 21st.
Roughly 90 minutes before the race, NASCAR announced AJ Allmendinger had been suspended for failing a random drug test taken last week at Kentucky. Penske Racing rushed Sam Hornish Jr. in from North Carolina to drive Allmendinger’s car, and Hornish arrived just minutes before it was time to climb in the car.
He was doing an admirable job until a tire problem caused him to spin, bringing out the first caution just past the halfway point. Hornish finished 33rd, and Penske officials said they’ll meet this week with Allmendinger to get a better understanding of the situation.
Stewart, meanwhile, picked up his third win of the season, which tied him for the most in the Sprint Cup Series with Keselowski. The defending series champion has won this race at Daytona four times in his career, all within the last eight years.