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If you're dazed and confused after this Daytona Coke 400, rest assured these drivers are too

If you're dazed and confused after this Daytona Coke 400, rest assured these drivers are too

Marcos Ambrose: a bad night at Daytona (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   The dazed look on the faces tells it all -- Not sure what this Daytona-Talladega stuff is sometimes, but sometimes it looks more like a very bad night at the roulette wheel than any kind of good ol' fashioned American racing.
   Tony Stewart survived a Saturday night of carnage and won the Coke 400. But most every other man in virtually the entire field was either wiped out in a big, savage crash or very badly dinged up.
   It was messy.
   Stewart, surprisingly, won after starting dead last. He'd qualified front row Friday, but NASCAR ruled an air duct hose wasn't properly set up, which could have given Stewart some aerodynamic edge, the logic  goes.
   And somehow Stewart managed to beat the two strongest men in the field, Jack Roush teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle.
  Maybe it was that late push by 'teammate' Kasey Kahne that gave Stewart the winning edge.
   Maybe it was a moment of hesitation by Kenseth, not wanting to leave Biffle out to dry in the final miles.
   Whatever, Stewart heads this week to New Hampshire with three tour victories in the first half of the season...and looking good for a hard run at a second straight Sprint Cup title.
   Stewart credited crew chief Steve Addington with a two-tire gamble pit stop as putting him in contention. "Steve had a great call there, two stops from the end, and that was the key.  
    "We were able to hold that track position, got the lead on the restart, and we were pretty good on the bottom.  
    "The biggest challenge was Matt and Greg. When they hooked up, I don't think there was anybody that could beat them.  
   "But we were able to stay in touch with them, and I got a great restart with Kasey helping me
    "We just had to try to separate Mat and Greg, and once we got them pulled apart, Matt tried to reconnect with Greg, and we carried enough momentum to get back around in front of Matt and get down on that bottom line.  
     "I tried to back up to Matt, to make sure they didn't get a huge run on us.  
     "They were coming on the outside in three and four... and the last wreck happened, and we were just fortunate enough to be leading."

   Kahne was clearly key to Stewart's win. The Stewart-Kahne draft, even on the outside line, which hadn't worked all night, stayed side-by-side by Kenseth-Biffle, a surprise to all.
    "I was surprised we got as good a restart as we did," Stewart said. "Kasey did a great job of getting hooked on the bumper right away, and we actually held our own. Actually we were better on the outside than those two were."

    Stewart's season so far has been up and down, highlighted by wins at Las Vegas, California and now here.
    "I'm leaving with a big weight lifted off our shoulders.  I think qualifying yesterday was what I was most proud of for the weekend, and even though we lost our time, having those two cars come her," Stewart said. "I feel we showed some strength."

   And finally some luck.
   "We just survived the wrecks. You look at where we were at when they happened -- they happened right behind us each time.  
    "The track position Steve got us was very key. If we'd got stuck fourth or fifth, on back, we were going to be one of those cars that got caught in the wreck.  Fortunately we were ahead of them both times."  

    Surprising runnerup Jeff Burton was also pleased: "Certainly feels good to have a good finish.  We've had a miserable year.
    "To get out of Daytona with a second-place finish, we ought to be happy.  We finished fifth here in the 500 and second tonight, so two top 5s down here is probably more than I can expect with all the wrecks and stuff.  
    "Hopefully it's something that'll kick start our year.  
     "It's been a difficult year, and hopefully we can build on this."

    But Kenseth was almost morose at losing, after easily having the fastest car.
    "Every situation is different, and the tough part is to manage your speed," Kenseth said, referring to the art of slowing down just enough to stay hooked with your drafting partner.
    "We're all racing your whole life, you go as fast as you can every lap.
     "This is just different.  Daytona worked really well for us in the spring, had that kind of somewhat figured out.
    "At Talladega we didn't.  At Talladega I did the same things I did at Daytona, and we got beat because I didn't I didn't do a good enough job dragging the brake and keeping my teammate with me, and we got beat.
     "This time I was going to make sure I kept Greg with me...and did a really good for a lap and a quarter.  We were locked on there.  
    "Somehow Greg got off me just a little bit. But Tony I think was separated as well (from Kahne).
    "I didn't think he was going to clear me and get in front of me, and I decided to  because of Talladega -- drag the brake and get back to Greg... try to get hooked up and then make a run on Tony.  
    "If he was by himself, I knew we could pass him, as long as me and Greg could get rolling again; we'd pass him somewhere over by turn four hopefully.  
    "Got him... made a run... tried to go outside of Tony, and he made a block real high.
   "I still had position... and then from there I'm not really sure what happened.  They just started wrecking behind us."


   What a rough night! (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Dazed & confused @ Daytona

Not sure why NASCAR didn't throw the red flag after that wreck instead allowing the laps to wind down so they could get a GWC finish, multiples if needed, but NASCAR of course, doesn't rely on gimmicks. Ha, I see pigs flying! The COT, the chase, the lucky dog, the IROC car, let me count the ways that NASCAR uses gimmicks.

NASCAR wanted to bring back the big packs but this new set of rules doesn't really allow for actual racing. the only good thing was that we didn't have to choose between mashed potatoes or mac & cheese Saturday night.

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