The Nationwide Series kicked things of with a bang on Valentine’s Day at Daytona with plenty of action throughout the event.
Kevin Harvick had the best seat in the house as the green flag flew by starting from the pole position in the Camping World 300 with Matt Kenseth starting along side in second.
Harvick managed to lead the first lap of the race but was soon passed by Kenseth on lap two for the lead. Kenseth would manage to have a little more success than Harvick did leading the field as he led the race until lap 17 before Clint Bowyer managed to muscle passed.
Bowyer would take a turn at the front of the field for a few laps before relinquishing the lead over to Tony Stewart on lap 22. Stewart would remain the leader as the first caution flag of the race flew for debris on the backstretch on lap 27.
Under the caution flag the leaders took advantage by hitting pit road for some much needed tires and fuel. Harvick’s crew did their job by getting him out in front of Stewart and regaining the lead.
Harvick would lead the field to the restart but would soon be passed by Stewart shortly after the green flag flew. Stewart and Greg Biffle would swap the lead between laps 35 and 37 until Stewart managed to push by Biffle and regain the lead. Stewart would hold the lead for a while until Kyle Busch fought his way to the front for the first time in the race on lap 49.
Busch’s lead would be short lived though as Bowyer captured the lead once more on lap 53. Bowyer would remain at the front of the field when the second caution flag flew for a spin by Brian Keselowski off turn 4 on lap 56.
This would allow all the lead lap cars to hit pit road again under caution for service with Busch having the best stop and gaining the lead back for the restart.
Busch would stay at the head of the field for quite a few laps before finally relinquishing the lead over to Brad Keselowski on lap 68. Shortly after Keselowski took over the top spot, another caution flag waved for a three car incident on the backstretch involving Steve Wallace, Jason Leffler, Scott Lagasse, and Justin Allgaier.
Leffler turned Wallace going into turn three sending him up into the wall collecting Lagasse and Allgaier who were innocent victims. As a result of Leffler’s behavior on the track, NASCAR officials ruled that Leffler was to aggressive and penalized him five laps for rough driving.
During this caution period the leaders would once again hit pit road for service with Jason Keller getting out first. Keller would lead the field down for the restart but was soon passed by Bowyer again on lap 79.
The caution flag came out once more on lap 81 for a blown right front tire on Kenny Hendrick’s machine which bunched the field up for a fantastic 35 lap sprint to the finish.
Shortly after the raced restarted, another caution flag came out for a spin involving Mike Bliss and Michael Waltrip on lap 87. Most of the leaders decided to stay out under the caution but a few takers including Stewart, Keller, and Carl Edwards hit pit road for some fresh rubber.
Bowyer would lead the field on the restart but was soon passed by Brian Vickers on lap 96 for his first time leading during the race. Vickers would hold the lead until the late laps when Edwards mounted a charge and passed him with just 15 laps remaining.
Edwards continued to hang on to the lead when the sixth and final caution flag flew for debris from Brad Keselowski’s blown right front tire with 11 laps to go. Under the caution almost every lead lap car came down pit road for fresh tires except for Edwards, Stewart, Bowyer, Keller, and David Reutimann.
This set up for some thrilling action in the last 8 laps as Stewart pushed his way past Edwards on the backstretch for the lead with just 7 laps remaining. Everyone was jockeying for positions in the final few laps with Stewart some how managing to defend his lead.
Stewart remained the leader on last lap with Busch running right up behind him going into turn three. Busch managed to get up right on Stewart’s rear end giving him a little bump to try and force him up the track but this move was to no avail as Stewart managed to collect his car and drive his way to victory.
This victory marks Stewart’s fourth win at Daytona in February and his first for owner Rick Hendrick. The race included 19 lead changes with 11 different drivers taking a turn at the front of the field.
The top ten finishers were Stewart, Edwards, Bowyer, Busch, Biffle, Vickers, Dale Earnhardt Jr., David Ragan, Keller, and Kenseth. Some notable finishers were Harvick in 11th, Reutimann in 12th, Joe Nemechek in 13th, Kenny Wallace in 16th, Mike Wallace in 19th, Joey Logano in 20th, Brad Keselowski in 22nd, Waltrip in 24th, and Bliss in 28th position.
The Nationwide Series is off to a thunderous start and we can only hope that the Sprint Cup Series starts off the same way in the Daytona 500.
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