Tony Stewart claimed his fifth win in six years in NASCAR Nationwide Series competition at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on Saturday in the DRIVE4COPD 300, but the win was overshadowed by a large multi-car crash on the final lap that sent the No. 32 car of Kyle Larson into the catchfence, shearing off the front of the car and resulting in much of the front end of Larson's No. 32, including the engine, on the fan side of the catchfence. Medical personnel were still tending to fans at the time of posting.
"The important thing is what's going on on the front stretch," a somber Stewart said in victory lane. "As much as we want to celebrate right now, our thoughts are with the drivers and the fans in the grandstand. I saw it in the mirror, and it didn't look good."
As the field headed toward the checkered flag, Regan Smith and Brad Keselowski made contact as Smith tried to keep Keselowski behind him. The contact set off a chain reaction that collected cars of Larson, Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brian Scott and others.
Smith acknowledged his blocking move, attributing the incident to two drivers going for the win.
"He felt like that's (blocking) what he had to do, and that's his right," Keselowski said.
Joe Gibbs Racing dominated the race early with its four driver team of Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Sadler and Brian Vickers. All four ran up front early, but overheating problems plagued all on the team, except for Kenseth.
Sadler experienced problems early, but was able to recover to make his way back toward the front, even leading for a time in the closing laps of the race. Vickers, though, wound up two laps down, and Busch's day ended with 21 laps to go when his overheating problem escalated to an engine issue.
"Last year, we ran our cars at 260 (degrees) or 270 all day and today I was about 250 to 260 so I thought being less I was going to be okay and not hurt anything," Busch said. "Never really thought I pushed too much water out, but there at the end just started to heat up, the oil temperature got hot and the thing never wanted to cool back down."
As JGR drivers, one by one, had their issues, Stewart was hanging around in the back of the pack. After restarting outside the top-20 on the restart following the caution for Busch's expired engine, Stewart made his way toward the front to restart second on the next restart with two laps to go.
Stewart got a push to the lead from Sam Hornish Jr., as Smith and Keselowski paired up in the final laps. Hornish finished second.
“The only thing I saw was coming to the white the 33 (Stewart) and I got separated and got back together," Hornish said. "I pushed him up there as far as I could. It took some dicey moves and I guess the 22 (Keselowski) and 7 (Smith) got tangled up there. I tried to get off the back of the 33 so I didn’t push him into anything and as soon as I got clean air I was right in the back of the 22, so it’s unfortunate that we did get a little bit torn up, but I guess it was a second-place finish. I’ll take that."
Alex Bowman finished third, Earnhardt was fourth, and Parker Kligerman rounded out the top-five.