Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tony Stewart's First Daytona 500 Win on Hold (Again)

Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images
Tony Stewart entered Budweiser Speedweeks at Daytona happy and back to his old self.  After two seasons where injury and tragedy marred his chances of making The Chase for the Sprint Cup, this is the year where a rebound is critical.

Stewart's Daytona racing resume is impressive. The three-time Sprint Cup Series Champion holds the record for most victories among active drivers, 19 overall. Between the Sprint Unlimited race and July Sprint Cup races at Daytona he has a combined ten wins, seven wins in the Xfinity Series and two wins in the former IROC Series.

It was no surprise that he was among the favorites to win Sunday's Daytona 500 in his 17th attempt. The driver/owner has won just about everything else when it comes to Daytona, but the 500 win remains elusive.

Stewart started the race fourth in his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet and seemed satisfied with the way the car was running, when he reported the car was “tight.” A split second later he hit the outside wall hard, collecting two-time Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth and rookie Ryan Truex. On Lap 41 his dreams of winning “The Great American Race” were put on hold for another year.

After repairs Stewart returned to the race 64 laps down, finishing 42nd.

“It’s the biggest race of the year. The last thing you want to do is stay out there and have something else happen to get in the middle of something. Let’s just let those guys have their day,” he said in a post-race interview.

Though this was a set-back for him and his fans, it’s not insurmountable for a comeback and a championship this year in the NSCS. In 2002, Stewart finished last at Daytona only to come back and win his first NSCS Championship.