There was no storybook ending for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night, when Tony Stewart won the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola.

In typical Daytona style, it was a fight to the finish involving a big wreck on the last lap, when Kyle Busch made a move to block Tony Stewart. Busch ended up taking the worst of the carnage.

While a big wreck at the finish came as no surprise to NASCAR followers, what was surprising to me was Stewart's reaction.

"Well, I don't know that I was real proud of that, but I don't know what else I could have done there," he said. "I went where I had to go and he went where he had to go. You hate seeing a guy that's been up front all day -- and especially a guy that helped me the whole race -- get wrecked like that. I don't like winning them like that."

Tony Stewart apologizing for a wreck? Is this a kindler, gentler Stewart?

Don't count on it.

A win has always been a win to Stewart, but he knew that Busch had helped propel his No. 14 car to the front of the field. And taking out Busch on the last lap was not a good way to thank him.

"It doesn't matter who it is, you just don't want a race to be decided like that," Stewart said. "I just don't feel as much gratification from winning this race as I probably should, I guess, just because I don't like the way the outcome happened."
That doesn't mean Stewart was taking the blame for the wreck.

"I don't know that we did anything wrong," he said. "I've seen replays of it, and he's protecting his position, which he's got to do.


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He can't just sit there and let us make a move like that and not try to defend it.

"But we weren't going to give it to him," Stewart added. "I worked really good with Kyle all day long, and Kyle was the guy that I chose to have restart behind me all day. You don't want to see somebody that ran up front all day lose that many spots and lose an opportunity to win because of an accident like that coming to the checkered flag."

Busch did not speak with members of the media following the race, and while I would have loved to hear what he had to say, it was probably the right decision for him. After the wild ride he had just taken, he had to have a heck of a headache, at least.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup series races under the lights again this Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway. Busch is hoping for a repeat of last year, when he swept both the Cup series race and the Nationwide series race in dominating style.

Ellen Siska writes about NASCAR for The York Dispatch. She can be reached at esiska@yorkdispatch.com.