"I nailed a commercial shoot on the first try in 20 seconds. Celebrated getting nominated for an ESPY. Won the Coke Zero 400 after I got bounced to the back of the line to start the race. — Signed, Despondent in Daytona."
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Daytona International Speedway, 1801 W International Speedway Blvd, Daytona Beach, FL 32114, USA
Stewart has 18 victories at Daytona International Speedway. That includes four in the Coke Zero summer scrum but a Big Zero in the Great American Race, the Daytona 500.
"We've had really good luck at Daytona, obviously," Stewart said late Saturday night, "and I wish I could trade a couple of these races in for just one Sunday race in February."
It's not for lack of skills, of course. Stewart is as talented as they come, and has the three Sprint Cup titles to prove it. He raced to the front Saturday night after starting 42nd because his No. 14 Chevy failed a post-qualifying inspection that knocked him off the outside pole alongside Kenseth. But Daytona, whether it's February or July, is always a treacherous beast.
Race strategy goes something like this: Hop in the car, hope it is fast, and pray no one smashes it to smithereens.
Stewart was fortunate in a way, up front while 14 of his race rivals got tangled up when things went bump in the night during the final lap. The action took out Greg Biffle, Kenseth's Ford teammate who once again seemed ready to push his buddy to victory as he did here in February, until he got tangled up with Kevin Harvick on the last lap.
The Roush Fords were dominant on the super-speedway again Saturday night. Kenseth and Biffle were in position to hold off Stewart in a green-white-checkered restart until they briefly lost contact and lost their aerodynamic push. Stewart benefited from Kasey Kahne's big bump, surged past them, and it was game over.
"Kasey did a great job of getting hooked on the bumper right away, and it seemed like we actually held our own and actually we were better on the outside than those two cars were," Stewart said. "But the key was being able to keep hooked up, and when we were leading on the bottom before that last caution, two different times those guys got hooked up together, and when they did, they were like a steam train coming on the outside.
"I'm sure if I would have backed up to Kyle Busch, we would have been pretty fast, too, but I'm not sure if we could have held those two off."
For all this incredible driving skills, Stewart remains bummed out about the Daytona 500 deal. He is now 0-for-13 in NASCAR's season-opening spectacle, becoming an Earnhardt-lite, if you will.
It took the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. 20 tries before winning here in 1998.
The gods of Daytona are funny that way. Just this year, Stewart started third and had a strong car until he got caught up in a late-race accident with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and finished 16th.
"I can't seem to figure this one out," Stewart said back then.
Five months later, it was all good. Stewart rocks this place in the summertime. But the winter chill brings a different story.
As Stewart looks ahead to 2013, he should channel the perseverance of Earnhardt.
As long as he keeps showing up, Stewart is bound to win one of these things in February.
Read George Diaz's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/enfuego or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org