Lap 41 damage derails three-time champion's bid for first Daytona 500 win Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Get full race results " Series standings DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- 0-for-17. Tony Stewart's career-long quest to win the Daytona 500 will have to wait another year. The Stewart -Haas Racing driver, with a fast car throughout Speedweeks, was involved in a Lap 41 wreck that eventually put his No. 14 Chevrolet behind the wall for good Sunday at Daytona International Speedway. The three-time premier series champion took the blame for the wreck after he drifted up the track and made contact with Ryan Blaney, the result of which sent him hard into the outside wall and brought out the second caution flag of the day. Matt Kenseth, who was also fast this week and won the Sprint Unlimited on Feb. 14, was among the other cars involved to take heavy damage. "My fault, I let it get away from me," Stewart said after exiting his SHR entry and heading back to his hauler. "We were fine as long as we were two-wide, then when it got three-wide that particular lap it got away from me. I got out of the gas and couldn't get the front end caught up when I got out of the gas. "I just got tight. I was a little bit tight before that. We took two tires on the stop before that. I needed to get to that next pit stop to get it fixed." Stewart -- who does have four wins at Daytona, all coming in the summer race -- returned to the track on Lap 110, 64 laps down. On Lap 141, he brought his car back to the garage and called it a day. "It was fast enough to stay with the pack there," Stewart said. "I actually just stayed with Mike Wallace to try to help my buddy out there, but we ran as many laps as we could to get us to where we couldn't run any more laps and gain anything." Apart from points, another reason Stewart decided to pull himself out was because of the nature of the race itself. Superspeedway racing inherently lends itself to big wrecks. Kyle Busch was injured during Saturday's XFINITY Series season-opening Alert Today Florida 300 after a wreck, and Stewart thought there was no reason to take the chance for himself or his competitors. "The biggest race of the year; the last thing we want to do is stay out there and have something else happen and get in the middle of something else," he said. "That's just letting those guys have their day now." The 42nd-place finish was the third straight finish of 35th or worse for the veteran in the Daytona 500. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart hit the wall in the DAYTONA 500.
Cain: Just as Earnhardt did before him, 'Smoke' wonders if this is the year Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live During the mid-1990s, it was almost a Daytona 500 rite of passage. Long before there were formal organized Media Days, sometime between pole qualifying day and the qualifying races the great Dale Earnhardt would saunter into the cramped and dated old Daytona International Speedway media center, bust a few chops and pat a couple reporters on the back as he navigated the tight quarters to take a seat -- often in a folding metal chair in the corner, summoning reporters to come over to him instead of vice versa. Sunglasses on, he'd lean back in his chair and, depending on his mood, smile or grimace. Sometimes he waited to be asked the perennial question: "When are you going to win the Daytona 500?" Other times he just cut to the chase himself. Some years he was philosophical, other times frustrated, always he was hopeful. He'd won every single other race at NASCAR's iconic track -- most of them multiple times including a mind-boggling 10 straight qualifying races (now known as the Budweiser Duels). Although Earnhardt clearly came to both expect and dread answering questions on why he, a seven-time champion and the sport's greatest active driver, hadn't won the sport's greatest race, he always acted like each year was going to be "the" year. And finally in 1998 it was. I never saw him more genuinely happy and exuberant -- The "Intimidator" sporting a grin so wide it seemed like his mustache might touch his earlobes. Twenty years later, it's a similar scene with another beloved champion, Tony Stewart . As Earnhardt did, Stewart has taught school on the Daytona high banks, hoisting trophies from sports car races to IROC races; after Daytona 500 qualifiers and summer night 400-milers. And like Earnhardt, it's obvious that the questions of whether he will ever win NASCAR's big one have understandably gotten stale and annoying to Stewart . The two greats -- one an inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame member, the other a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer -- are shining examples of one of the sport's most mystifying quagmires. It took Earnhardt, a seven-time Cup champion, 20 years of trying before he won the Daytona 500. In the meantime, Derrike Cope (1990) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95) scored their first career series wins in the Great American Race. Michael Waltrip notched his first Cup trophy in the 2001 Daytona 500 after more than 460 starts. And 20-year-old Trevor Bayne scored his first and only Cup win in the 2011 500. Yet former series champions Rusty Wallace -- a NASCAR Hall of Famer -- along with champion brothers Terry Labonte and Bobby Labonte are a combined 0-for-77 in the Daytona 500. Mark Martin, one of the sport's most successful drivers, is 0-for-29 in the race. And for the most part, these greats don't even have a lot of near-misses to ponder. Wallace's best finish was third in 2001. Martin won the pole in 2010, had a dramatic runner-up showing in 2007 and a third-place finish in 1995. Terry Labonte has a pair of second-place finishes a decade apart in 1986 and 1997. Bobby Labonte had a sole runner-up in 1998, one of only three top-10 finishes in 22 starts. As he has become accustomed to in recent years, Stewart -- mostly -- patiently answered the Daytona 500 questions again this month. He joked that he was willing to sacrifice a body part to celebrate in NASCAR's most iconic Victory Lane. He's analyzed and Monday morning quarterbacked the late lap moves that shoulda-woulda landed him there. Until Stewart finally kisses that Harley J. Earl trophy, his quest to win the Daytona 500 will be one of the most interesting and compelling subplots of the sport's biggest race. But his success in the 500 is not what defines Stewart as one of NASCAR's greatest champions. Instead, it's the dogged pursuit of that dream that inspires and captivates. Every year, win or lose. And as Earnhardt did each February for two decades, Stewart has every reason to believe that this is his year. "Not until the day that I don't run here anymore,'' Stewart said of abandoning hope of a Daytona 500 win. "Everybody has got a shot here, so it's just a matter of ‑‑ we've been in that position before. … At least that gives you confidence that you've got a shot. "If anybody looks at my career and says because I haven't won a Daytona 500 that I didn't have a good career, I'd want to say they really don't know what they're talking about." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Tony Stewart's name is synonymous with winning but one trophy still eludes him.
Driver receives black flag after not taking mandatory driver weigh-in Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- On-track performance might weigh on Tony Stewart's mind. But off-the-track weighing clearly wasn't on his mind before Friday's Sprint Unlimited practice at Daytona International Speedway. Stewart was the subject of the season's first summons to the NASCAR hauler, just after opening practice began on the 2.5-mile track. The consultation came moments after his Stewart -Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet received the black flag. The three-time Sprint Cup Series champion had neglected to take the mandatory driver weigh-in before the track was open. He initially ignored a radio communication to report back to the garage, resulting in the hauler call. Stewart brushed past reporters, vehemently refusing comment after series officials bent his ear. But Stewart issued a statement of sorts via Twitter: Well NASCAR felt compelled to make me the first to be called to the trailer 10 min into the first practice of the year. #greatstart #NASCAR — Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) February 14, 2015 Stewart wasn't the only driver who failed to pay a visit to the scales before Friday's pair of Sprint Unlimited practices. Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer were both required to weigh in after initially getting into their cars and taking to the track. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Stewart -Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch also caught up Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge MORE: Complete Sprint Unlimited results A wreck involving Tony Stewart on Lap 68 brought out the second red flag of the Sprint Unlimited. RELATED: See the best photos from Saturday's race Stewart was running inside the top three at the time of the wreck, when he appeared to get loose and then made contact with Greg Biffle. The red flag was withdrawn within a few minutes. Biffle took a hard hit into the wall from the wreck. Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch were also involved in the accident. Gordon finished seventh, Kyle Busch finished eight and Stewart finished 13th, while Biffle was 14th and Kurt Busch was 15th. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Tony Stewart gets loose, causing a crash that collects Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch with under 10 laps to go during the Sprint Unlimited.
Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers talk about their recent health issues and getting ready for the 2015 season.
Three-time NASCAR champion will become sole owner of organization CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart has entered into an agreement to purchase the All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car Series. The announcement, made Wednesday, stated that Stewart has agreed to terms with series owner Guy Webb to become the sole owner of the organization. "My passion for sprint car racing is well known," Stewart said in a release, "and the All Star Circuit of Champions ... series has been a pillar of the sport for a long time. "Racing is my business and I look forward to building the series' already impressive legacy by taking it to a new level of success and sustainability." Stewart , co-owner of the four-car Stewart -Haas Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series organization, has continued to compete in sprint cars throughout his NASCAR career. Incidents in the past two seasons, however, have left many wondering if his extracurricular racing activities should be either curtailed or stopped entirely. In 2013, Stewart suffered a broken right leg in an accident while competing at a sprint car race in Iowa. The injury forced Stewart to miss the final 15 races of the '13 NASCAR season. Last August, Stewart was again competing in a sprint car race when his entry struck and killed a fellow driver, Kevin Ward Jr. Stewart sat out three NASCAR races while dealing with the emotional and legal turmoil. Although he was cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident, Stewart said the fatality was something that would stay with him "forever." Dirt track racing makes up a large part of Stewart's business endeavors, and includes ownership of Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio as well as Tony Stewart Racing, a successful World of Outlaws race team. Webb said he had put his "heart and soul" into the All Star Circuit, "and it gives me great peace of mind to hand over the reins ... to Tony Stewart . " Tony is dirt track racing's biggest advocate, and he's always working in the best interest of sprint car racing." The series, which is not tied to one specific sanctioning organization, has a 50-race schedule in store for the 2015 season. The first event of the new year is scheduled for Feb. 5-7 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Florida.
Once an outlet, does racing provide same comfort? RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated The news on that Sunday morning shocked the NASCAR world, and soon the rest of the country was horrified, too. In a dirt-track race in upstate New York, Tony Stewart struck and killed another driver. From beginning to end, the Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy was unprecedented. Even with racing's history of being cloaked in death, nothing like this had ever happened. Ward crashed after contact with Stewart . He left his wrecked car and walked down the track to confront Stewart while Stewart turned laps under caution. Stewart's car hit Ward, and he died a short time later at a hospital. That happened late on Aug. 9, a Saturday night. By Sunday morning, video of the accident had been posted on YouTube. The tragic death was bad enough. The attacks on Stewart were dark and disturbing, too. It was as if people on social media took sides on a story that had no sides. They seemed to decide they couldn't mourn for Ward and feel empathy for Stewart at the same time. All of which made this the worst story of this (and almost any other) season. The "sports as escape" idea is a cliché that also happens to be true. Drivers, football players, baseball players, whomever, all speak of the field of play as a respite from the pressures of everyday life. But what if that field of play is also the source of those pressures? It seemed impossible Stewart would find any calm when he climbed back into his No. 14 Sprint Cup Chevy for the first time in Atlanta after missing three races. He was dealing with crushing guilt and grief. What difference could racing make with pain like that, considering racing caused the pain? But there Stewart was, taking the first laps in the restart of his life. All of his fellow competitors welcomed him back, and many of them said getting in the car would be a key step for him in his healing process. Stewart seemed to think that, too, if for no other reason than being in the car would give him something else to think about, something else to do for a few hours. Stewart remained composed while reading a prepared statement in front of the media, but it was obvious that he was a mess, that grief still gripped him. He looked broken, pale, washed out, like he hadn’t slept since the accident. He looked like a man wondering what he should do with the rest of his life. Stewart normally lives his life in NASCAR’s public eye, but he nearly disappeared after Ward’s death. He looked and sounded much better when he took questions from reporters on Sept. 29 than he did in Atlanta. He looked better still when he was interviewed after the fall race at Martinsville, his only top-five after his return. He had been invisible for so long that his sudden appearance on TV to talk about having a fast car was almost jarring. When Stewart -Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick won the Sprint Cup championship, Stewart joined the celebration and the postrace press conference. "There's a lot of things I would love to change about the last 18 months of my life, but tonight is not one of them," Stewart said. "I'm going to enjoy this moment." What's next for Stewart ? Nobody knows. On and off the track, his life remains unsettled. He has said he probably won't race in sprint cars again, and that seems like a wise move, considering the August accident and a previous one that left him with a broken leg that caused him to miss 15 races last season. His average finish in Cup races in 2014 was 20.0, the worst of his career by nearly four positions. He went winless for the first time, and it's fair to ask (and impossible to answer) how much of his struggles were tied to the Ward accident. He wasn't having a good season before Ward's death, and he was even worse after. There are questions off the track, too. He could face a civil suit from Ward's family. Perhaps the only closure so far came when the criminal case ended. Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo sent the case to a grand jury, which declined to pursue charges against Stewart . In announcing that, Tantillo also said Ward had marijuana in his system at a level high enough to impair his judgment. In the court of public opinion, that closed the case. With the absence of charges, the public moved on quickly. But Stewart didn't. He said several times that the tragedy would follow him for the rest of his life. Racing had brought Stewart the greatest joys of his life. Now it has wrought his greatest sorrow. SUBSCRIBE NOW!