Stewart nips teammate Kyle Busch to put Toyota into Victory Lane
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The payback was perfect. Tony Stewart turned the tables on Hendrick Motorsports to win the Nationwide Series opener.
Now, if only he can do it again Sunday.
The Joe Gibbs Racing teammates showed they have learned some important lessons about cooperation from the drivers at Hendrick, the team that fired Busch to make room for Earnhardt Jr.
"We worked with each other the whole race. That's something that, you know, we've learned that from [those] guys," Stewart said. "And it just shows if you get two of these guys to work with each other, Kyle and I can. I think Kyle and I could have stayed up front all day no matter how many guys challenged."
That will be tested in the 500 and the expected showdown between Hendrick and Gibbs.
Earnhardt, Daytona pole-winner Johnson and Gordon are all former 500 winners. Gibbs' drivers still are looking for that first win in NASCAR's biggest event.
But Earnhardt Jr.'s convinced Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing are for real.
"The Toyota has been fast," said Junior, who had his string of Speedweeks victories ended at two. "Those guys, you know, got knowledge to get cars around the track, know how to get to Victory Lane. They're going to be tough, I think, all year."
Joe Gibbs Racing switched from Chevrolets to Toyotas over the winter, giving the Japanese automaker a marquee team for its second season on the Sprint Cup and Nationwide circuits.
Stewart and Busch put on a good show Saturday, leading 93 of the 120 laps.
"This car was just fast," said Stewart, who finished second in both the Budweiser Shootout and his 150-mile qualifying race earlier in Daytona's Speedweeks. "It just had so much speed."
The field got strung out early in the race, but the last 20 laps were a wild, two- and three-wide melee that included a nine-car crash on Lap 111 that took out Cup stars Kasey Kahne and Kevin Harvick.
Brian Vickers, in another Toyota, took the lead from the two Gibbs cars with five laps to go, but Stewart shuffled back into the top spot on the next lap, with Earnhardt shooting out of the pack in close pursuit.
"It was fun," said Earnhardt, whose No. 5 Nationwide team likely will be penalized next week after NASCAR confiscated its rear spoiler Thursday for illegal modifications. "We did what we had to do. We got a great finish. Those two guys -- they were tight all weekend, really fast, and worked great together in the draft as teammates."
Busch moved back to second on Lap 119, with a push from Martin Truex Jr., and Stewart, with his flank well protected, raced on to a three car-length victory.
Busch dismissed a report that Truex had complained that he was blocked.
"What else you going to do, man? Shoot, he's pushing me through the tri-oval wanting to spin me out," Busch said. "So I'm sorry I saved it and kept it in front of him. Grow up, bud. What do you want me to do, pull over?"
Busch, who also finished second in the trucks race, is hoping to improve his finish Sunday.
"If I win tomorrow, I'm going to be the happiest man alive, that's for sure," Busch said. "That's what I've been saving my wind for this week."
Said Earnhardt: "Good luck."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
ESPN TOP HEADLINES
- Pacers clutch late, even series against Heat
- Report: Rogers, openly gay, to join Galaxy
- Mauer only Twin with hit off Tigers' Sanchez
- Penguins thwart Sens to advance to East finals
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
More Sprint Cup Coverage• Monday Rundown: Big opening weekend
• Newman: McCauley shares in emotional win
• Ryan Newman takes on Mike & Mike
• Jayski podcast: What a finish in Daytona
• Blount: Newman, Penske and Dodge golden
• Zoom Gallery: 50th running of the Daytona 500
• Newton: Junior's storybook start has so-so ending
• Ashenfelter: Hornish 'masterful' at Daytona
• Newman delivers Daytona 500 win for Penske
• Notebook: No Wood Brothers entry in 500
• Blount: Ganassi hoping merger rumors true
• Newton: Salley says he wants to own Cup team
• McGee: Little double-dipping at Daytona
• Blount: Bowyer's 07 takes beating
• Blount: All aboard the Earnhardt Express
• The Eliminator: Take Gordon, please
• Inside The Hauler: Controversy doesn't stir JJ
• ESPN.com's Top 25 Drivers vote | Rank 'em
• Kyle Busch worried about tires in Daytona 500
• Jayski podcast: Looking ahead to Sunday
• Insider: Dr. Jerry Punch on Mike Tirico Show
• Duels: Newton | Blount | Recap | 500 grid
• Jayski podcast: The Duels and The King
• Newton: Hendrick leader of Chevrolet pack
• Blount: Feel-good afternoon at Daytona
• Newton: Junior off to blazing start
• Vickers, Wallace hitch onto Daytona 500 field
• Cowlishaw's Power Rankings: JJ No. 1
• Newton: Ford teams unite
• Blount: Gatorade Duels mystify
• Jayski podcast: Kyle Busch and more
• Newton: Who's leading Dodge?
• Garrow: Daytona 500 preview
• Door-To-Door: Jarrett's Daytona dream
• Notebook: Jarrett says no to Reutimann's ride
• Newton: Probation right call for Stewart, Busch
• Jayski podcast: Stewart ain't talking about it
• Blount: Fairy-tale ending at Daytona?
• Blount's Blitz: Let the Junior comparisons begin
• Jayski.com's Mark Garrow wraps up Week 1
• Newton: Beware of Toyotas
• McGee: 500 turns 50 ... Zoom Gallery
• Blount: 2008 a matter of redemption
• Newton: 2007 in rearview mirror
• Jayski: How do you make the Daytona 500?
• JJ on 500 pole | Speeds | Grids: Duel 1 | Duel 2
• Blount: Waltrip goes from disgraced to embraced
• Newton: Junior Nation alive and well
• Smith: Eury dedicates Shootout win
• Newton: Get your No. 3 commemorative die-cast
• Blount: Junior wins quickly | Shootout recap
• Newton: Interchangeable cars? Not quite
• Sources: Stewart punched Kurt Busch
• Ashenfelter: Hamlin's '07 a learning experience
• Inside The Hauler: Martin not looking back
• Blount: Big weekend with Shootout, Pole Day
• Newton: Reality check for McMurray
• McGee: 'Shifting Gears' with Junior
• Ashenfelter: Truex now the man at DEI
• Marty Smith's Door-To-Door: Valentines for Liam
• Blount: Who are these open-wheel guys?
• Blount: Daytona 500 victory or Cup title?
• Blount's Blitz: Boys will be boys
• Ashenfelter: Bowyer drawing lofty comparisons
• McGee: 50 things you need to know
Nationwide Series• Stewart smokes 'em from pole ...
• 2008 season preview
• Ashenfelter: Opener no lock for Harvick
• Dale Jr.'s Nationwide ride impounded for spoiler
• Ashenfelter: Coleman ready for full-time gig
• Mark Garrow previews the series
• Ashenfelter: Times change, but maybe not at top
Craftsman Truck Series• Notebook: Unfinished business for Skinner
• Schwarb preview: It's the Ron & Jack Show
Blogs• Breeze: The scissors were ready for Smoke
• Newton: Judd settles for jeans on race day
• Newton: NASCAR tells Judd to dress down
• Blount: Moonshiner Johnson's come full circle
• Newton: Ashley who? Say hello to Ingrid
• Newton: NASCAR must rule on Judd's dress
• Blount: Junior still sells big
• Smith: Smoke vs. Busch? All good
• Blount: Say what? Media Day talkers
Fantasy• The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: Daytona 500
• Harris: Spin The Black Circle
• Daytona 500 fantasy rankings
• Fantasy Focus Weekly
• Chat wrap: Garrow on Fantasy NASCAR
• ESPN.com experts' Mock Draft
• Engel: Stock car strategy guide
• ESPN Fantasy Stock Car 2008
• ESPN Stock Car Challenge
• 2008 ESPN Fantasy Draft Kit
SportsNation• Chat wrap: Jayski
• Chat wrap: Analyst Brad Daugherty
• Chat wrap: ESPN.com writer Tim Cowlishaw
• Chat wrap: Sprint Cup driver Sam Hornish Jr.
• Chat wrap: David Newton and Terry Blount
• Chat wrap: ESPN.com writer Terry Blount
• Chat wrap: ESPN analyst Rusty Wallace
• Chat wrap: Jayski.com's Mark Garrow
• Chat wrap: ESPN.com writer David Newton
• Chat wrap: Driver Ryan Newman
• Chat wrap: Driver Jamie McMurray
• Chat wrap: ESPN.com writer Terry Blount
• Chat wrap: Jayski.com's Jayski
• Chat wrap: NASCAR Now's Nicole Manske
Classic 500s• McGee: Blizzards, the King and a fight
• McGee: Cope with a surprising victory
• McGee: Finally, one for the 3
• McGee: The Kid against the world
• McGee: It was Harvick by a nose