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Tony Stewart wins Coke Zero 400 at Daytona with final bump

DAYTONA BEACH — Kyle Busch spent the last 30 laps of the Coke Zero 400 hoping to negotiate a deal to lead one lap for bonus points. He finally earned his way there by passing Tony Stewart with one left, but his fervor to stay ruined it all.

Holding firm against a second block attempt with the checkered flag in sight Saturday night, Stewart nudged the rear bumper of Busch's No. 18 Toyota coming out of the trioval.

That sent Busch hard into the wall and into a brutal pinwheel through the front stretch that left both his car and his day in tatters. Stewart, meanwhile, dodged the mess and darted to the finish to collect a second win of the season he needed a while to celebrate.

Jimmie Johnson avoided the fray to finish second, followed by Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch. Kyle Busch finished 14th.

Stewart, who won the Daytona International Speedway summer race for the third time, found little satisfaction in sending his hot-tempered former Joe Gibbs Racing teammate spinning. Busch, the 2008 summer race winner, made one attempt to block Stewart out of Turn 4 and was nudged low. His effort to dart back up in front of the No. 14 Chevrolet left Stewart virtually no recourse.

"I don't know if I was really proud of that," the Sprint Cup points leader said. "But I don't know what I could have done. … I made my move to the outside and he went to block us and we were there."

Busch, who hit the wall with multiple sides of his car and was plowed by at least two competitors, pulled himself from his wreck beyond pit road and walked away pulling off equipment.

He declined comment and was whisked to the infield care center, where he was seen and released.

The final 30 laps set up a strategic battle of four cars that dominated the previous 130. Stewart, Busch and Hamlin pulled away from the pack after leader Jeff Burton pitted on Lap 130 with a tire problem. Busch asked his spotter if he thought he could "orchestrate" a move to the lead with Stewart and Gibbs teammate Hamlin, but was advised to "ride and try and steal it later."

The lead pack jostled through two more cautions before the final restart with four laps left. Busch made his final move on Lap 159.

Stewart didn't begrudge Busch, saying, "he's protecting his position, which he needs to do." His melancholy over the crash partly stemmed from the fact that they had worked with each other in the draft throughout the night.

"Tony didn't mean to dump him," Johnson said.

Metal-shredding wrecks at the end of the last two restrictor-plate races is likely to fan the "someone's gonna die" debate when the series returns to Talladega in the fall, but Stewart called the wrecks a byproduct of the racing.

No one was injured Saturday night unlike after Carl Edwards' crash into the Talladega catch fence that injured several fans this spring.

At least that part was satisfying.

Tony Stewart wins Coke Zero 400 at Daytona with final bump 07/04/09 [Last modified: Sunday, July 5, 2009 8:35am]
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