Tony Stewart outran the strong Roush Fenway Racing duo of Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle to win a wild Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Stewart moved around Kenseth on the outside on the final lap and rolled across the finish line as much of the field crashed behind him in turn four.
Jeff Burton, who recovered from almost losing control of his car in turn two on the last lap, came home second in front of Kenseth, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman.
The first half of the race was caution-free as the field swept around the 2.5-mile track in formation. Kenseth and Biffle were dominant at the front.
The first caution flew on lap 82 as Sam Hornish Jr., substituting for the suspended AJ Allmendinger, slid across the track after one of his tires blew.
There was a tense moment on pit road during the caution period as Kasey Kahne and Ryan Newman collided while leaving their pits after being crowded by Jeff Gordon. The contact sent Newman’s car sliding into Brad Keselowski’s car, which was being serviced in his pit. A NASCAR official and several crewmen acted quickly to avoid Newman’s car.
The second caution occurred on lap 91 as Kurt Busch lost control of his car in the middle of a pack of traffic. Busch slid up the track into Trevor Bayne, and Bobby Labonte slid off the track as he slowed.
The lead pack was scrambled on lap 124 when heavy traffic at the entrance of pit road resulted in a multi-car crash, one that saw Jimmie Johnson’s car sail head-first into the inside wall in turn four. Others involved in the accident were Bill Elliott, Gordon, Logano, Michael Waltrip, Martin Truex Jr. and Regan Smith.
Several cars, including the dominant Fords of Biffle and Kenseth, had dropped onto the pit-road entrance to head to pit road when the accident occurred, and pit road technically was closed as they crossed the commitment line. Biffle stopped for service, while Kenseth drove on down pit road without stopping.
Biffle was banished to the back of the field for the restart for pitting too soon.
Biffle needed only a few laps, however, to catch Kenseth and re-establish the killer draft they had had for much of the race. With 20 laps to go, they were running fifth and sixth, and advancing.
The night’s fourth caution flew for Keselowski, who lost control of his car exiting turn two on lap 144.
The race toward the finish began with a green flag with 12 laps to go. The Kenseth-Biffle draft shot past leader Stewart with eight laps left to send Kenseth into the lead. Two seconds later, Denny Hamlin lost control of his car while racing in the middle of the front pack, sparking a 14-car accident that scattered debris across the first turn. Also involved in the crash were Trevor Bayne, Juan Pablo Montoya, Clint Bowyer, Gordon, Kyle Busch and Marcos Ambrose, among others.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.