- Associated Press - Sunday, February 17, 2013

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (AP) - Tony Stewart said every plane ride home from the Daytona 500 has been awful because he’s yet to win the big race.

Smoke might have another tough ride ahead if he pulls the same move he did in the Sprint Unlimited in next week’s season-opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Stewart was running second when he cut across the front of Marcos Ambrose, making slight contact that turned Stewart sideways and required a save to keep from crashing.

He lucked out. But the sudden cut triggered a chain-reaction crash that collected seven more cars only 15 laps into the race.

Next time, he might not be able to save his car.

“That is why I haven’t won a Daytona 500 yet,” Stewart said, after a race won by Kevin Harvick. “I’m not quite sure exactly which move to make. I saw the No. 22 coming on the bottom. I thought they were going fast enough that I needed to move down, but I should have stayed where I was at.”

Defending race winner Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, and Kurt Busch were all taken out.

Stewart won the first segment of the three-segment non-points race. But he couldn’t escape the fact he cost so many drivers a shot at finishing.

“The spotter did not clear me, so I went on my own,” he said. “I thought I had enough of a run to be clear of the third-place guy.”

Stewart, a three-time Cup champion, has yet to win NASCAR’s biggest race. He came close in 2008 but finished third after Kurt Busch pushed Ryan Newman on the last lap to the win. He said this week he took no solace in the fact so many of NASCAR’s greats needed years to finally win Daytona.

His gamble in the No. 14 Chevrolet didn’t work on Saturday for some of the field _ but he did finish fourth.

“I would rather try something and it not work than stay and lose a bunch of spots,” he said. “I would probably be more frustrated because I didn’t try something.”

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