DEFENDING FORD 400 WINNER WINS AT DAYTONA

Dale Jr at Daytona

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was in position for a top-five finish, but he was collected in the final big wreck coming to the line and got a 15th-place result at Daytona and remains in second in the championship standings (photo courtesy: Chris Graythen, GETTY IMAGES SPORT)

Defending Ford 400 race winner and reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart managed to survive the wrecks at the Coke Zero 400 and added a third win to his total this season. After having his qualifying time disallowed by NASCAR, “Smoke” recorded a first-place finish in Race 18 of 36 en route to NASCAR’s series-crowning Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 16-18. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are available now. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Races at Daytona are known for having multiple accidents. Stewart took advantage of late-race drafting help from Kasey Kahne to get by the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford of Matt Kenseth on the final lap to win aboard the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing car. The win was Stewart's fourth July Daytona Sprint Cup Series win in the last eight years and his 18th Daytona victory across in all three of NASCAR's national touring series. That number is second only to NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt's 34 Daytona wins.

"I don't even remember what happened on that last lap," Stewart said. “Any time you win at Daytona, it's special.”

It was the defending Ford 400 champion’s third win of the season tying him with Brad Keselowski for the Sprint Cup Series championship lead. As Stewart celebrated his victory he admitted that he would be willing to exchange it "for just one Daytona 500." The 2013 Daytona 500 will take place just 109 days following the 11th consecutive Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are available now. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

With cars wrecking in front of him, Jeff Burton drove to a second place finish after hanging out in the back of the race field for much of the event.

“We finished fifth here in the 500 and second tonight, so two top five down here is probably more than I can expect with all the wrecks and stuff,” said Burton. “Hopefully it's something that'll kick start our year a little bit. It's been a difficult year, and hopefully we can build on this.”

Kenseth was forced to settle for a third-place finish, after dominating the race by leading 89 of 160 laps, rather than a Daytona season sweep.

“I'm not really sure what happened, they just started wrecking behind us," said Kenseth, who started from the pole in his bid to become the first driver since 1982 to sweep the two Daytona races in the same season. “It seems like we always end these things in green-white-checkers, and whenever you do, really anybody that's in the front few tandems has a shot to win the thing.

“It's so unpredictable. You do things those last two laps that you'd never do the rest of the race. It's really hard to figure. You sit out there and ride around and be leading the whole race and come down to one of the green-white-checkers and have no idea where you're going to finish. It was just disappointing when you have the best cars like me and Greg (Biffle) did."

With the Race to the Chase in full swing, Stewart is serving notice about his championship chances moving into fifth-place in the championship standings. The Chase For The  Championship will culminate in South Florida Nov. 18. Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are available now. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

Next up for the Sprint Cup Series drivers is New Hampshire on Sunday, July 15 (1 p.m. ET, TNT) — en route to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 16-18). Tickets for Ford Championship Weekend—Nov. 16-18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway—are available now. For ticket information, click [HERE] or call (866) 409-RACE.

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