Stewart still dominant at Daytona (sort of)

July, 10, 2012

There are a lot of great Fourth of July traditions: the Daytona race, barbecues and my annual vacation from work included. But that doesn't stop me from writing these blogs and doing my top-notch research that gets me all the ladies.

Some actual history was made at Daytona on Saturday. First, Tony Stewart picked up his 18th career Daytona win -- his fourth in a Sprint Cup Series points race. The only driver with more? Some guy named Dale Earnhardt, who won 34 races at Daytona.

But Stewart is still waiting for that pesky Daytona 500 win, much like that guy above him was before his landmark 1998 victory.

Even more impressive is that Stewart won after starting 42nd, becoming the third driver in series history to win after starting 40th or worse. Fonty Flock won at Raleigh in 1953 starting 43rd, and Johnny Mantz won the first Southern 500, also starting 43rd.

The previous modern-era record was 39th, done by Bobby Labonte at Atlanta in 2001 and Matt Kenseth in the 2009 Daytona 500.

Trivia break! Prior to Stewart, what 2012 Cup series winner had the worst starting position?

One cool CAT

Jeff Burton came home second at Daytona, making it through the last-lap wreck -- and all the other wrecks -- to pick up his best finish of the season.

In fact, Burton had just one other top-5 finish this season, in the Daytona 500.

Combined with his 10th-place run at Talladega, Burton has put up the second-most points in restrictor-plate races this season, trailing only Matt Kenseth, who has been third or better in all three plate races.

Over the past two seasons, Burton has four top-5 finishes, three of them coming in plate races. He also has four of his nine top-10s in plate races in that time.

Trivia break! Besides Burton and Kenseth, who are the only three other drivers with lead-lap finishes in all three plate races this season?

Classic Daytona

Daytona races are known for many things: surprise winners, close finishes and tight quarters. Oh, yeah, don't forget the wrecking.

The wrecks at Daytona on Saturday night collected 43 cars combined, some drivers being involved more than once. It was the highest total in a race dating back to 1990, when we started collecting complete data.

Thirty-two drivers were involved in at least one wreck. Six more started and parked, and one, Landon Cassill, had issues of his own.

That leaves just four drivers who ran the distance and didn't get involved in a wreck: Stewart, Burton, Ryan Newman and Brad Keselowski. All finished in the top eight.

Trivia break! Who was the last driver to sweep the two races at Daytona in a season?

Trivia break answers

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. had the previous worst starting spot for a winner, starting 17th at Michigan.

2. Greg Biffle, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Paul Menard also have lead-lap finishes in all three.

3. Bobby Allison was the last to do so in 1982.

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.



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