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Saturday, February 16, 2013
Instant analysis: Sprint Unlimited

By Terry Blount
ESPN.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The lame duck is the first winner of 2013.

Kevin Harvick, who is in his final season at Richard Childress Racing before heading to Stewart-Haas Racing next year, did some masterful blocking on the final lap to hold off future boss Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle to win the Sprint Unlimited on Saturday.

"That's one for the lame ducks, right," Harvick said. "It's just a matter of how many we can get."

It was the debut race of the new Gen-6 car, which had mixed results about how good the new car will be.

Here are some of the interesting moments in the 75-lap all-star race that kicked off the 2013 NASCAR season, along with a few surprises in the ARCA race Saturday afternoon:

• Big wreck came early -- It took only 15 laps. Stewart squeezed down in front of Marcos Ambrose and forced Ambrose to check up, starting a chain reaction behind them involving seven other drivers -- Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr.

Gordon, Martin, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Johnson and Hamlin were done for the night. Stewart escaped unscathed.

"It's really unfortunate," Kyle Busch said. "I wish we would have been around longer to learn some things. There are not enough pieces [for the new cars] to do this."

This was the second consecutive restrictor-plate race in which Stewart started a multicar accident. The previous one was the last lap at Talladega.

• The wreck-starter was the Segment 1 winner -- Stewart went to the outside and got drafting help from Harvick on the outside to pass Matt Kenseth and win the 30-lap first segment. Kenseth was second, and Harvick was third.

• Stewart saves it in Segment 2 -- When Dale Earnhardt Jr. drifted down slightly in the middle of the track, it took the air off the nose of Stewart's No. 14 Chevy.

Stewart's car got lose and banged into the left-rear quarter panel of Earnhardt's car, but both drivers got control of their machines and kept them pointed straight.

• Pairs racing is over -- Most fans will be glad to hear that racing in tandems, bump-drafting two by two, doesn't work with the new Gen-6. It didn't happen Saturday night. In fact, bump-drafting was rare anywhere.

• Four-tire stop -- That's what the fans voted for the teams to do after the first segment. Teams were concerned the fans would pick no pit stops after the segment, which would have forced the teams to pit near the end of the first segment and hope they had enough gas to get to the end.

• Harvick the pit winner -- Harvick's No. 29 Chevy crew did the best job on the stop, getting him out first to start the second segment in front after coming in third.

He dominated the second segment and won it. Biffle was second, Logano was third and Stewart was fourth entering the final 20-lap sprint.

• No eliminations -- At least not from the fans. The fans voted not to eliminate any drivers after the second segment. Good decision.

Fans could have opted to eliminated two, four or six cars. Had they picked the latter, only six cars would have raced the last segment.

• Terry Labonte starts and parks? -- In the Sprint Unlimited? Labonte went to the garage after two laps of the all-star race.

If that was the plan, just don't take the green flag instead of pretending to be in the race.

• Townley a winner -- Often-criticized racer John Wes Townley, who has no top-10s in 43 Nationwide Series starts and only two top-10s in 28 Camping World Truck Series races, took the checkered flag in the ARCA race Saturday afternoon.

Townley's victory also marked the first time a Venturini Motorsports driver has gone to Victory Lane at Daytona. The Venturini family has been hoping to get this win since long before Townley was born.

"We've won championships in this series," said team owner Billy Venturini, who took over for his dad, Bill Sr., a former ARCA champion. "But that was the first time I've cried in Victory Lane in my life."

Townley, 23, got so frustrated with the lack of progress in his racing career that he quit in 2011 before coming back.

"If you quit you never get any better," Townley said. "I decided to pick it up because I missed it so much. It's a wonderful thing to be able to turn everything around like this. It's priceless. Once you've done it, nobody can take it away from you."

• Stewart looks like a psychic -- On media day Thursday, Tony Stewart was asked whether he thought 19-year-old racer Kyle Larson was a future star. "You can bet the farm on it," Stewart said. "I guarantee it. If not, you can take everything I own. I'm that confident."

Apparently, Stewart will get to keep his belongings. Larson finished second in the ARCA race in his first start at Daytona. He needed to run well to get approved to race the Nationwide event next weekend. Done deal.

• Women leaders Saturday -- Milka Duno led the first 10 laps of the ARCA race. Danica Patrick had the fastest lap in the final Cup practice, making her a serious contender for the pole Sunday.