DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — NASCAR’s new racecar provided a familiar result in Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway when Kevin Harvick won the All-Star race for pole winners for the third time in five years.
Harvick’s Budweiser Chevrolet led 19 of the final 20 laps to give car owner Richard Childress his eighth win in the non-points race that opens the Sprint Cup Series season.
The new car, called “Generation Six,” was the result of fans and manufacturers demanding greater brand identity. While the new cars look better, they didn’t seem to enhance the racing during its debut.
Tony Stewart trailed Harvick, who easily led the most laps (40), most of the final 20-lap segment before trying to make a move on the final lap. He got beside Harvick, but his car quickly faded as Harvick drifted even higher to cut off charge.
“It’s a great way to start off Speedweeks,” Harvick said. “When we get to the racetrack, we try to make it go as fast as it can go.”
Harvick also won the race in 2009 and 2010.
Greg Biffle wound up second, followed by Joey Logano and Stewart.
“I really felt like I had something for (Harvick),” Biffle said. “I had a run on him and he closed the door on everyone. He did what he had to do. I thought about sticking it in there, but it didn’t look like it was going to work.”
Much like testing in January and Friday’s practice, it didn’t take long for a big crash to happen. Stewart cut across the Marcos Ambrose’s front bumper on the 15th lap to ignite a nine-car pileup in the first turn.
Cars driven by Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch were involved. That left only 12 of 19 cars with 60 laps remaining.
“It stinks that it was 15 laps into the race,” Kyle Busch said. “There’s still a long way to go. We’re all learning and trying to figure out how we can pass with these things and what we have to do to make moves and everything.”
“We didn’t get very far along, did we?” Mark Martin asked.
Fans voted to create segments of 30, 25 and 20 laps on Friday. They voted Saturday to set the starting lineup by the order of poles from the 2012 season, which put Daytona 500 winner Carl Edwards on the pole. But since Edwards, Kurt Busch and Mark Martin crashed during practice and were forced into backup cars, they dropped to the rear of the field for the start.
The fans also voted for a mandatory four-tire pit stop at the end of the first segment.
Despite the early accident, Stewart came back to win the first 30-lapper. Matt Kenseth finished second, while Kevin Harvick was third, Carl Edwards was fourth and Kasey Kahne was fifth.
Harvick’s team got him off pit road first and he kept it there for most of the 25-lap run. Biffle wound up second, followed by Logano in third, Stewart in fourth and Truex in fifth.
All the teams return today for pole qualifying for the Daytona 500 – and the first entry into next year’s Sprint Unlimited.