Tony Stewart gets elusive Daytona 500 win as owner and it’s still ‘special’

Photo by Harold Hinson Photography

By Yvonne Jones, Staff Writer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A Daytona 500 win as a driver would have been nice. But Tony Stewart will take it as an owner.

Stewart drove 18 years in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and never won the Great American Race. He retired at the end of last season, and in his first race as a full-time co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, Stewart hoisted the Harley J. Earl trophy behind his driver Kurt Busch on Sunday.

“If I knew all I had to do was retire to get it done, I would have retired a long time ago,” said Stewart, who was replaced by Clint Bowyer in the No. 14 Ford.

Over his 18-year Cup career, Stewart won four times – 2005, ’06, ’09 and ’12 – at Daytona, all in the July race.  Still, this Daytona 500 victory is just as sweet despite not being the wheelman.

“Even though I ran here 17 times, didn’t win this race, this is pretty doggone cool to win it as a car owner,” said Stewart, a former three-time champ at the Cup level.  “This is pretty special.”

Winning NASCAR’s ‘Super Bowl’ event was especially huge for Stewart, who played a key role in SHR’s decision to switch its four-car operation from Chevrolet to Ford to start the 2017 season.  It’s the first Daytona 500 celebration for the organization.

“It has been a really long, hard winter, and I am so proud of everyone at SHR and Ford Performance,” said the 45-year-old Stewart.  “They really worked their tails off to get ready.  Doug Yates and everybody at Roush Yates Engines brought unbelievable power all week.”

Stewart said he was nervous from his new seat at the race track as Busch fought through adversity to capture his first Daytona 500 victory. Busch led only the final lap.

“It was a crazy race, even crazier to sit and watch it from a pit box finally,” Stewart said. “Kurt did an amazing job. He doesn’t even have a rear view mirror. The mirror folded on him. His spotter, Tony Raines did an amazing job. That is the most composed I have ever seen Kurt at the end of a race. He deserved this.”

So how does the Daytona 500 victory as an owner compare for Stewart?

“I mean, when you’ve grown up all your life as a racecar driver you want to win it as a driver,” said Stewart, who won 49 Cup races before his retirement.  “For every driver, there’s a point where you step out of the car and you do something different.  To have an opportunity to come back this year as an owner and still have the opportunity to be where we’re at right now, I mean, that’s a pretty exciting feeling.

“It’s what anybody that does anything with a race team, especially owners, that’s what you strive for.  You strive to win races and you strive to win championships.  But first and foremost, you want to win the biggest one of the year.  That’s out of the box here at Daytona.”

 

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