DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Tony Stewart had lost six points positions in his last two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts.
He gained all six back Saturday night, thanks to a workmanlike second-place finish in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
As a result, he heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the July 13 New Hampshire 300 10th in points and gaining steam.
"If you can't win, you always want to run second," the three-time Cup champion said. "With these things being as crazy as they are, if you can end up with a top-two (finish), you're pretty happy when you leave here.
When that's the case, he said, then it's also likely that "you've got a straight race car, too.
"One out of three isn't bad in the organization there. The other two got watered up pretty good."
The "other two" would be Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Ryan Newman and Danica Patrick, both collected in a last-lap crash that capped the 161-lap race. Newman still wound up 10th and Patrick 14th in spite of their mangled entries.
A four-time winner of the July classic, Stewart had two opportunities on late restarts to reel in race leader, and eventual winner, Jimmie Johnson. But each time he came up just short.
Stewart said the fault lay with the driver.
"I honestly didn't feel like I got good restarts each time," he said. "I felt like I missed -- it wasn't the car or gear or motor or anything like that -- I just felt like I didn't time them right.
"Luckily guys behind me were able to help get me recovered there, but I didn't feel like I had the best restarts tonight. I ? just never could get the timing right. We'll try to get that straightened out for next time. "
Crew chief Steve Addington said there was nothing the team could do but sit back and watch as the final restarts unfolded.
"Just hoping for the best," Addington said, watching as his car went through post-race technical inspection.
"Tony is awesome at this type of racing. It was in his hands. It was all we could do. He took care of the car all night long and then finally made his run to the front."
Thirteenth in qualifying two days earlier, Addington said the team had "an issue" in practice on opening day, "but we got that straightened out.
"We ran the second practice and knew we were OK."
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