By Matt Murschel | Orlando Sentinel
8:19 PM EST, February 23, 2013
DAYTONA BEACH — Tony Stewart won Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300, but it was a subdued victory as the triumph was marred by a major wreck that involved injuries to at least 28 fans in the grandstand.
As Stewart's No. 33 Chevrolet crossed the finish line, a 12-car wreck took out most of the leaders, including Kyle Larson, whose No. 32 Chevrolet was sent into the grandstrand safety fence. The force of the wreck sheared Larson's car in half, sending part of it into the stands. Larson was treated and released at the infield care center.
NASCAR and track safety crews were on the scene within a matter of minutes to attend to those injured.
"I looked in the mirror and that's the worst image I've ever seen in a race in my life," said a subdued Stewart following the race.
It was the second major wreck in the final five laps of the 120-lap race.
The first wreck, which involved 13 cars, brought out the red flag on Lap 116 as officials worked to clean the track.
After a nearly 20-minute delay, the race was restarted and Stewart took command of the race, winning on a green-white-checkered finish.
Sam Hornish Jr. finished second, followed by Alex Bowman and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Michael Annett's No. 43 Ford got tangled up with the No. 3 of Austin Dillon and the No. 5 Chevrolet of Kasey Kahne before spinning out and causing a chain reaction that stopped the race. Annett was transported to Halifax Health Medical Center after complaining of pain in his chest and sternum. According to his team, Richard Petty Motorsports, he underwent treatment for bruising on the chest and was given a CT scan. He was to remain at the hospital for observation.
While much of the attention this week was focused on her, Danica Patrick's day didn't end up quite the way she had hoped. Patrick, who is to start from the pole position for Sunday's Daytona 500, was forced to the garage during a caution on Lap 30 after her No. 34 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet lost power.
The first caution of the day came out on Lap 9 after Scott Lagasse Jr.'s No. 8 Chevy spun out into the grass on the frontstretch. Before the yellow flag came out, Patrick was out front but relinquished the lead to Elliott Sadler during the restart.
The second caution came out on Lap 30 in Turn 4 when Regan Smith's No. 7 Chevy spun down and took out Juan Carlos Blum's No. 15 Ford. It was during that accident that Patrick was forced to the garage with her power loss.
Trevor Bayne, who started the day on the pole, had engine problems on Lap 84, sending his No. 6 Cargill Ford — smoke and all — back toward the garage and bringing out the fourth caution of the day.
There were 34 lead changes and 20 leaders for the 300-mile race.
Dale Jr. tops final practice
Dale Earnhardt Jr. posted the fastest final practice time for the Daytona 500 when he took his No. 88 Chevy around the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway at a speed of 198.592 mph Saturday. His single-lap speed was 45.319. Earnhardt will start from the 10th row for Sunday's race.
David Gilliland was second on the day with a top speed of 198.421 mph, followed by Clint Bowyer, Marcus Ambrose and Aric Almirola to round out the top five.
Danica Patrick, who will start on the pole position, did not practice.