2012 season in the rear view: Tony Stewart

Vitals: 9th in the points standings. 3 wins, 12 top 5s, 16 top 10s. 2 DNFs.

Moment to remember: Tony Stewart was at his July Daytona best once again, winning for the fourth time in the last eight Coke Zero 400s.

To do it in 2012, he took advantage of a huge push from Kasey Kahne before Kahne got loose from contact with Jeff Burton and side-draft split apart Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle to take the lead for good on the backstretch before carnage erupted behind him in turn 4.

It was Smoke's third (and final) win of 2012.

Moment to forget: Like we've said before, the restrictor plate giveth and it also taketh away. Stewart was at the front of the pack at Talladega in the Chase on the final lap, but this time, instead of being far enough in front of the crash in turns three and four, he was the crash, flipping over after making contact with Michael Waltrip in an attempt to stay in front of both Waltrip and Casey Mears.

The wrap: How much different would Smoke's 2012 Chase have been had he taken the win and not the wreck at Talladega?

Stewart entered Talladega fifth in the points standings, 32 points out of the lead. He left 46 points back. Had he taken the lead, he would have scored 25 more points than he had (47 to 22) and would have been within approximately 20 points of the top of the standings.

Now, this isn't to say that Stewart was going to challenge Brad Keselowski, as Stewart had far too much of an up and down season (11 finishes outside the top 25) to seriously defend his championship. But it's entirely plausible that split second ended up being a difference of four spots in the standings.

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