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Daytona concern trumps win for Stewart

DAYTONA BEACH — Tony Stewart won Saturday's Nationwide series race, the Drive4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway, but he was subdued after the major wreck on the final lap that injured dozens of fans.

As Stewart's No. 33 Chevrolet crossed the finish line, the multicar melee broke out behind him. "I looked in the mirror and that's the worst image I've ever seen in a race in my life," a subdued Stewart said.

It was the second major wreck in the final five laps of the 120-lap race.

The first, which involved 13 cars, brought out a red flag on Lap 116 as officials worked to clean the track.

After a nearly 20-minute delay, the race was restarted and on the final lap Regan Smith led with a push from Brad Keselowski. When Smith spun — he admitted in an ESPN interview afterward that he was trying to block Keselowski — Stewart ducked low and sped by.

Sam Hornish was second, followed by Alex Bowman and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The only driver injured in the race didn't come on the spectacular last-lap incident. Michael Annett, whose No. 43 Ford was involved in the crash that brought out the red flag, went to Halifax Health Medical Center after complaining of pain in his chest and sternum. According to his team, Richard Petty Motorsports, he had a bruised chest and was to remain at the hospital for observation.

Keselowski chat: Keselow­ski, the Sprint Cup champion, has been vocal about his desire to use his position as NASCAR champion to be an industry leader.

Sometimes that outspokenness gets him in trouble.

Keselowski confirmed that he met with NASCAR chairman Brian France and International Speedway Corp. CEO Lesa France Kennedy, but he revealed few details.

"We are all engaged in the same thing, and we are all embracing making the sport better. We just have to discuss how we share that passion sometimes," he said.

NASCAR chief communications officer Brett Jewkes said Keselowski wasn't in trouble, and the meeting was not a direct result of a USA Today article last week in which Kese­lowski specifically mentioned both executives in wide-ranging comments about the direction of the sport.

No delays today: The Daytona 500 will go off as planned despite the damage to the track from the last-lap wreck, DIS president Joie Chitwood said. The Tampa native said he doesn't anticipate moving any fans from those affected seats for today's race. The fence that separates the track from the seats was being repaired. The grandstands where fans were injured are about 200 feet from the start-finish line. This is the third time in four years the track has needed major repairs on Daytona 500 weekend. The 2010 race was interrupted for more than two hours because of a pothole. Juan Montoya hit a jet dryer in last year's race that caused a raging inferno.

Last practice: Earnhardt topped the speed chart for the final practice for the 500 at 198.592 mph.

NHRA: Doug Kalitta took the No. 1 qualifying spot in Top Fuel at the Arizona Nationals in Chandler in a track-record 3.733 seconds at 329.02 mph. Johnny Gray topped the Funny Car field and Mike Edwards led Pro Stock heading into today's eliminations.

East Bay Raceway: Steve Poiriet won the King of the 360s Winternationals and Brock Zearfross won the Mini Sprint feature late Friday on the dirt track in Gibsonton.

Daytona concern trumps win for Stewart 02/23/13 [Last modified: Saturday, February 23, 2013 10:27pm]
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