5 July 2009
Stewart gets win in wild finish
Tony Stewart said he didn't want to win Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 Sprint Cup race the way he won it.
Kyle Busch certainly didn't want to lose the race the way he lost it.
Nonetheless, Stewart crossed the finish line at Daytona International Speedway, Jimmie Johnson in tow, moments after contact between Stewart and Busch sent Busch spinning hard into the front-stretch wall.
Though Stewart won his second race of the season, his second as an owner/driver for Stewart-Haas Racing and the 35th of his career, he was ambivalent about the win as he climbed from his car in victory lane.
With a push from team-mate Denny Hamlin, Busch had taken the lead approaching the white flag and held it through turn four of the final lap. But Stewart drove his #14 Chevrolet up to the left rear of Busch's #18 Toyota off the corner, forcing Busch to go to the bottom of the track to maintain control of his car.
As Busch slid back up to block Stewart, contact with Stewart's car turned Busch into the wall and ignited a dramatic multicar wreck near the finish line. Hamlin finished third, Carl Edwards fourth and Kurt Busch fifth.
“I went where I had to go, and he went where he had to go,” Stewart said. “He went to block us, and we were already there. ... It doesn't matter who it is, you don't want a race to be decided like that.
“I just don't feel as much gratification from winning this race as I probably should, I guess, because I don't like the way the outcome happened. I don't want any part of winning a race because the guy who was leading got wrecked.”
Watching a replay of the incident didn't soothe Stewart's feelings completely.
“I don't know that we did anything wrong,” he said. “I've seen replays of it, and he was protecting his position, which he's got to do. That's what he has to do as a driver. He can't just sit there and let us make a move like that and not try to defend it.
“You don't want to see somebody that ran up front all day lose that many spots and lose an opportunity to win because of an accident like that coming to the chequered flag.”
Johnson had a front-row seat for the accident but didn't see a way to avoid it.
“Tony didn't mean to dump him,” Johnson said. “It's just the product of restrictor-plate racing. Every time we use the restrictor-plate tracks, there's questions about how we can keep from having the big wreck and things like that, and you just can't. When you run plates, and we run wide open all the way around the track, situations like this come around.”
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