DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Tony Stewart won for the 17th time Thursday at Daytona International Speedway. And like he has done so many times before, he now faces the challenge of transforming that success into his first Daytona 500 victory.
Stewart led the final 18 laps in the first of two 150-mile Gatorade Duel qualifying races, finishing a half-lap ahead of Danica Patrick’s final-lap crash.
Matt Kenseth won the second qualifier, going from third to first on the final lap.
Stewart is accustomed to success at the 2½-mile speedway, with three Duel wins and five runner-up finishes.
But he never has won the biggest race: the Daytona 500.
“It’s good momentum, but it’s no guarantee obviously,” Stewart said. “It’s nice to come here, especially for (crew chief Steve Addington) and I, being our first race together, to be able to come out and have two really good, strong and solid races back to back is an awesome start for us.
“It’s a long race on Sunday and a lot can happen. Even though we had success today, it’s no guarantee that can happen Sunday.”