Tony Stewart felt furious Saturday.
And Tony Stewart felt fabulous Saturday.
The passionate driver whose temper gauge has been known to often have its needle in the red began the day that way after a near-disastrous morning for his Sprint Cup team. It ended with smiles and genial post-race interviews after he put on an exemplary driving performance to win the Nationwide Series' Camping World 300 before an estimated 70,000 at Daytona International Speedway.
Stewart was fuming early in the day -- particularly at Goodyear -- after a blown tire by Ryan Newman led to a Stewart T-boning his teammate and both going to backup cars for today's Daytona 500.
A few hours later, his decision to come in for fresh Goodyears earlier than most other contenders was part of a brilliant driving exhibition. He drove a Rick Hendrick-owned No. 80 Chevrolet past 23 cars over the last 11 laps and held off Kyle Busch (fourth) and Carl Edwards (second) heading to the checkered flag.
"When I went back to the bus and put this uniform on, when you see Hendrick on it, you switch gears real quick in your mind and you realize you have a job to do," said Stewart, who has now won four Nationwide races at Daytona. "This was the perfect thing to try to get it out of my mind and to get me focused 100 percent on what we can do to try to win [today]."
Stewart pitted with 29 laps to go, giving up the third position to get four new tires. He roared through the field, going from 15th to ninth to fifth during one three-lap stretch. When a caution waved with 11 laps to go, Edwards (who had taken tires when Stewart did) and Stewart were 1-2 and most contenders hit the pits.
One of those contenders, Clint Bowyer (third), helped push Stewart past Edwards with five laps to go, and he held on despite a serious charge by Busch.
On the final lap, Busch pushed right up on Stewart's bumper out of the long backstretch and stayed there through Turn Three as he tried to get Stewart loose. Stewart did drift up the track, but he was able to recover and come back down to keep Busch behind him. Stewart maintained control over his wiggling car before he fended off Edwards, who crossed the finish line with his front bumper stuck to Stewart's rear bumper.
As for the morning, Stewart said, "I was so frustrated I couldn't see straight."
"It's just a Goodyear right rear tire," he said. "Same stuff that we always talk about every year is the failures that Goodyear has. I think that's part of their marketing campaign. The more we talk about it, the more press they get."
Goodyear representative Stu Grant called it a "classic case of a clear puncture."
A reporter asked Stewart how it affected his chances in the 500. "I don't know, rocket scientist. I'm sitting here with a backup car, what do you think?
"We've got a lot of work to do. I'm ticked right now. I'm not happy, I'm not cordial, I'm not nice, I'm not anything right now, and I shouldn't be."
A few hours later, he'd be fine.