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Archive for Sunday, February 15, 2009

Stewart’s fortunes change

February 15, 2009

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— It took Tony Stewart just five hours to go from brooding over his battered Daytona 500 car to celebrating a victory in the season-opening NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

The two-time Cup champion held off a last-lap challenge from Kyle Busch to win the Nationwide race Saturday at Daytona International Speedway.

“After this morning, it’s great,” said Stewart, who lost his Daytona 500 car and that of teammate Ryan Newman to wrecks during morning practice. “This is a good way to rebound.”

Stewart passed 23 cars in 11 laps to get back into contention after pitting with 30 laps to go in the 120-lap Camping World 300, then hung onto the lead as Busch, Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer fought for position.

It was Stewart’s fourth Daytona victory. He also won the second-tier series’ season opener last year in another late-race battle with Busch.

Stewart gave up the third spot to pit during a caution on lap 91, falling far off the pace for the restart on lap 94.

Driving a Chevrolet for longtime friend Rick Hendrick, he charged to the front, several times passing cars while sandwiched in the middle of three-wide battles.

Brad Keselowski led several times and appeared to be one of the cars to beat, but he banged off the wall on lap 108. Two laps later, his right rear tire blew, bringing out the last of six caution flags and setting up the dash to the finish.

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