DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (July 3, 2011) — Tony Stewart and the No. 9 TapouT Racing Chevrolet Impala spent the majority of the Subway Jalapeno 250 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway running up front with the lead pack after starting the Friday night event from the outside pole. Trouble struck the Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) team as Stewart was caught in the last-lap accident as the NASCAR Nationwide Series field raced to the checkered flag, leaving the team with a 13th-place finish.
The TapouT Racing Chevrolet started the race second to polesitter and teammate KHI co-owner Kevin Harvick. The third and fourth starting positions were secured by KHI driver’s Elliott Sadler in the No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet and Clint Bowyer in the No. 33 Menards Chevrolet marking the first time in Nationwide Series history that a team swept the first four starting positions.
As the green-flag waved the KHI teammates paired up down the front stretch racing two-by-two with each car as drafting partners. Bowyer was the first partner for Stewart in the 100-lap event but lost the help of the No. 33 car when Bowyer felt a bad vibration on lap 4 causing him to make an early trip to pit road to assess the situation.
Sitting in the eighth position, Stewart found rookie Danica Patrick on Lap 18 and pushed them to the third and fourth position. The first caution of the evening waved on lap 26 for a spin in turn three. The No.9 TapouT Racing team chose to come down pit road for four tires, fuel and no adjustments as Stewart reported he was very comfortable with the handling of the KHI machine. The team restarted in the sixth position on lap 30.
Back under green-flag conditions, Stewart returned to working with Patrick. The pair fell back into the middle of the pack after returning to full speed, but was able to quickly return to the top 10. When the second caution flag waved on lap 35, the pair was running in the fifth and sixth positions. Crew chief Bruce Cook elected to keep Stewart on the track as the team was good on tires and fuel until lap 70.
The field went back to green-flag racing on lap 38 and Stewart pushed Patrick to the lead on lap 40. An accident in turn one brought out the third caution of the night on lap 45. Imperative to superspeedway racing and needing to stay with drafting partners, the leaders came down pit road and Cook elected for right-side tires and fuel.
The team restarted on lap 49 in the eighth position. On the restart, Stewart decided to leave Patrick and pair up with teammate Elliott Sadler. The two fell to the middle of the pack as other cars began to stack up in front of them, causing the fourth caution flag of the event to wave in the same lap.
Running twelfth when the race resumed on lap 53, Stewart and Sadler made a charge to the front of the field. By lap 55 all four KHI cars were running together again in the top-15. Stewart and Sadler continued to work with each other and on lap 66, the TapouT Chevrolet pushed Sadler’s OneMain Financial vehicle to the lead.
After a few laps with Sadler in the lead, Stewart reported to his teammate that he was getting too hot pushing and needed to get out in the air. The two swapped positions and Stewart took over the lead with 26 laps to go. The duo found themselves in the midst of an eight-car pack, shuffling positions as they raced around the famous Daytona track.
With 19 laps to go, the caution flag waved for the fifth time as teammate Bowyer and the No. 33 Chevrolet made contact with the outside wall on the backstretch. The TapouT Racing Chevrolet came down pit road with the remaining KHI teammates for a fuel-only stop. The teams delivered solid pit stops and returned the three KHI teams to the track in the top three positions.
On lap 84 the green flag flew and Sadler and Stewart battled up front for the first and second positions as Harvick fell back through the lead pack. With just over 10 laps to go in the event, the final caution flag waved.
The KHI teams remained on the track to maintain their position. Stewart took the lap 93 restart in the third position and continued to push the No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet through the field. A violent multi-car accident erupted as the leaders came out of turn four coming to the checkered flag. Stewart fought to navigate around the incident, but was caught in the accident just before the finish line, leaving him with a 13th-place finish.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series will return to action at Kentucky Speedway on July 8 for the Feed the Children 300. Watch the action live on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Comments from driver Tony Stewart:
“We had bad timing there at the end. I thought I had a better spot where we were going to be able to stay where we were, but I couldn’t keep the momentum going at the end there. There is no doubt in my mind that this No. 9 TapouT Racing Chevrolet wasn’t the fastest car on the race track all night. It didn’t matter who we were with we could move them to the front.
“Every time I think I’ve seen the extent of what Kevin Harvick Inc. can do then you go to the next race and ride again and it gets better. The qualifying effort is proof of what this organization is capable of. It’s fun because every time you run with KHI, you know that you’ve got a shot to win before you even get in the car. You don’t have to wait to see how practice goes, you already know what your car is can do.”