DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Linda Vaughn lingered circuitously Tony Stewart’s competition car, clutching a china racing angel pendants remaining in her palm. Stewart’s already was tucked inside his glow fit mins before a Coke Zero 400 on Saturday night, his final NASCAR competition during Daytona International Speedway.
The long-time motorsports personality, many compared with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, had given Stewart a identical one before his initial win in a Brickyard 400 in 2005 and she was carefree this one would do a pretence again a week after a timid Stewart won his initial NASCAR competition given 2013.
Former drag racer Darrell Gwynn lingered nearby. Rival organisation owners Rick Hendrick stopped by for a handshake. It had begun to feel like a milepost impulse in Stewart’s final of 18 seasons during NASCAR’s tip level. After Stewart staid into his No. 14 Chevrolet, Vaughn eased in to massage a shoulder of her long-time friend, afterwards assimilated a organisation hidden off array highway to assume their vantage points.
This was clearly something many of Stewart’s friends wanted to see.
“I wasn’t going to skip this,” Vaughn, who also had been in city for a Motorsports Hall of Fame induction, told USA TODAY Sports.
Stewart gave his true a uncover for many of a Coke Zero 400, percolating from his early-race holding settlement in a behind to a tip five in a latter stages. But on Lap 148 of a scheduled 160, Stewart got lax in Turn 1 and walled his car, promulgation him to a 26th-place finish.
“Casey Mears was examination and gave me copiousness of room to get adult there,” he said. “So we figured it was improved if we got to a top. Then 3 or 4 laps after we got lax into (Turn) 1, so we hadn’t been lax all day there. When we did, we over-corrected and got into a fence.”
It wasn’t a sum loss, though. Stewart entered a competition 9 points out of 30th position, a compulsory stage to validate for a Chase for a Sprint Cup. He jumped dual rungs to 30th notwithstanding a finish.
The late Dale Earnhardt compulsory 19 attempts before finally winning a Daytona 500 in 1998. He was distinguished cruising down array highway in an escape of care and honour odd since of a unanimity.
Stewart will have no such moment. He’ll finish his Sprint Cup career 0-for-17 in NASCAR’s status race, carrying never even done it to a 18th try after violation his behind in an off-season off-road racing accident that cost him a initial 8 races. If he’s pining over a mislaid opportunity, though, he does so in private.
But it seemed wise that Saturday night during Daytona International Speedway, Stewart’s helmet gimlet a distinguished and iconic picture of a late seven-time champion, a male who knew usually as good a confounding allure of a lane that helps figure a fable of all who try to competition and win there.
Jeff Gordon was fatiguing in reporting he would never competition batch cars during Daytona again after his retirement commencement this season, and equivocal silly during a suspicion of it. That from a three-time leader of a Daytona 500.
For Stewart, a usually motorist to win 3 or some-more Sprint Cup titles though claiming a Harley J. Earl trophy, a awaiting was equally appealing, even after losing his final try since of a application detonate in his vertebrae postulated in a dune cart accident.
“We all know how we feel about restrictor image racing,” he pronounced after winning final week during Sonoma Raceway.
It’s been a hard-earned opinion, even yet he’s a four-time leader of a mid-summer Coke Zero 400, and claimed Daytona 500 subordinate races and a non-points season-opening shootout.
In 2006, 5 years after Dale Earnhardt died in a last-lap pile-up in a Daytona 500, Stewart overwhelmed a third rail in expressing his exasperation over a tallness of charge that had grown in restrictor image racing, observant “five years from now, we’re substantially going to have to do another reverence to another motorist since we’re substantially going to kill somebody. It could be me. It could be Dale Earnhardt Jr. It could be anybody out there.”
NASCAR responded to a really open reprove by instituting supposed “no zones” where bump-drafting would be banned in corners, and Stewart was penalized mid-race for door-slamming Matt Kenseth onto a weed entering a turn, incurring a penalty.
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Stewart’s near-misses in Daytona’s majors have been excruciating. In 2004, he, Earnhardt Jr. and Andy Wallace had paced many of a Rolex 24 usually to have a left back tire come lax in a final minutes, relegating them to a third-place finish. While restrictor image racing has him in a clutches for usually one some-more competition after Saturday – a tumble Chase for a Sprint Cup eventuality during Talladega Superspeedway – Stewart pronounced he’s interested in a sixth Rolex bid.
As for a Daytona 500, there is no sentimental panic notwithstanding his disaster to master it. It, like a Indianapolis 500, will sojourn a violent box on a tabulation piece of excellence that done Stewart – a former IndyCar champion – chosen in a multi-regimen category of his generation. The high banks and high speeds of Daytona, like a low, pointy corners of Indianapolis, defied him, though.
Stewart was widespread in a 2005 Daytona 500, heading 107 laps, though succumbed in overtime as Gordon won. He was clever again in 2007, when an irregular strike from destiny worker Kurt Busch sent him crashing to a last-place finish.
One year later, he led down a backstretch on a final path and attempted to tuck in front of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch for a wilful push, though Ryan Newman plied a high line with a vital pull from Team Penske comrade Kurt Busch to win a competition for a initial time.
Stewart’s match couldn’t assistance his doing in Turn 1 on Saturday, though he again seemed rational by his final Daytona run, maybe since it finished with a compulsory outing to a infield medical center, a starkly probable unfolding in any image race.
“Nope,” he said. “I’m all right right now.”
Contributing: Mike Hembree
Follow James on Twitter @brantjames