Tony Stewart celebrates winning his fifth NASCAR Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300 in six seasons Saturday at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. via nascar-assets.americaneagle.com. Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR.
It seemed like all eyes were on Danica Patrick as she made her NASCAR debut in Saturday's DRIVE4COPD 300 Nationwide Series event at Daytona International Speedway. She spent most of the early laps of the race running from mid-pack on back where she felt most comfortable. She even managed to miss a lap seven crash that involved Trevor Bayne, Brian Keselowski, and Mike Bliss, among several others -- driving right through the wreckage to remain unscathed.
"I don't know how I didn't, but I didn't," she told crew chief Tony Eury Jr. over the radio after missing the accident.
Patrick's luck would run out later though. After falling a lap down, getting her lap back, then stalling her car on pit road on her second pit stop, she became an innocent victim of a multi-car crash around the halfway point of the race. That incident would end her afternoon prematurely.
While Patrick's day ended about half a race too early, it did last longer for her than fellow-female Nationwide first-timer Chrissy Wallace, daughter of series veteran Mike Wallace. Wallace's Nationwide debut lasted about one lap, as her day ended with contact between her and Paul Menard. According to Wallace, Menard was "racing too hard, too early."
While Wallace was forced to call it a day, Menard moved up from his last-place starting position to finish just outside the top-five in sixth.
Meanwhile, the three drivers who have dominated February Nationwide Series competition at Daytona the last several years -- Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Kevin Harvick ran up front pretty much all day. Harvick and Earnhardt Jr. started near the front, making up the second row on the starting grid. Stewart, on the other hand, started 32nd, but it didn't take him long to join Harvick and Earnhardt Jr. up front.
The three would be pretty much a mainstay in the top positions until contact between Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski with about 29 laps to go would send Earnhardt Jr. airborne, causing him to flip his car and collect several others, Harvick included.
While Earnhardt Jr.'s day ended there, Harvick's No. 33 team made repairs after a red flag delay of about 11 minutes. Harvick then began his move back toward the front with the help of Keselowski, and eventually finished the race in the third position. As Harvick was racing his way back toward the front, Stewart was staying in front and held on to win the race, his fifth in his last six Daytona Nationwide February attempts.
Edwards would hold on to finish in the second position for the second-consecutive year. Justin Allgaier, who fought Stewart for the lead through the final laps, did get shuffled back slightly on the white flag lap to finish in the fourth position. Brian Vickers rounded out the top-five.