Stewart nips Bowyer at Daytona finish line

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“I looked in the mirror, I saw Junior, the only Chevrolet up there, I knew that he was going to work with me. He shoved me all the way to the last lap,” he said. “Coming off of four, what do you do? They had a good run. I tried to block (Stewart‘s) momentum, about that time Junior ducked under me, I had to block him. All hell broke loose.

“You work the whole race to put yourself in a situation to be there at the end. I’ve been able to do it twice. I’ve just got to get it all together for (Sunday) and win the big one. If I could give these two up to win that one, make the third one a charm, it would be a helluva charm.”

Earlier Saturday, Bowyer and Burton hooked up to post the fastest lap of the final Daytona 500 practice session, clocking a 200.316 mph lap.

Cassill finished third and became the series points leader. He doesn’t have a ride lined up for next week, though.

“I’m the points leader? I’m sorry, I don’t have a ride next week, so I’m going to bask in this for about seven days,” he said.

Earnhardt, trying to win on the 17th anniversary of his father’s seventh and final Nationwide win at Daytona, finished fourth. Friday marked the 10-year anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s death in an accident on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

“I would have liked to have won the race,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I was helping Clint there at the end and Tony on the outside had a great run. They took away my opportunity to try to pass Clint by myself. Should have just pushed Clint there at the end to the win. I was just trying to see what I could do, if I could win it somehow. But it didn’t work out.”

Danica Patrick finished a career-high 14th.

“It was pretty fun,” she said. “You know, definitely, I think as anybody who watched the whole thing saw, unless you had somebody to run with and you were going to push each other all the way around, you were going backward. So I didn’t really have anyone to push with.”

The race developed the same way all of them have this Speedweeks, with two-car packs spread out all over the track because using a push has proven to be the fastest route. Although drivers insist they have no idea if it will play that way for 500 miles Sunday, Stewart said he was “100 percent” confident that’s what’s going to happen.

“They are going to start pairing up from the drop of the green flag, and for 500 miles, that’s how we’re going to run the race,” he said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that’s going to happen.”

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