Even before the green flag dropped on Sunday's Pocono 500 Tony Stewart made the pundits go from asking whether he would ever win again to asking when he was likely to win but, post-race, the next question might very well be 'will Tony Stewart ever stop winning?'.

Having left the comfy confines of Joe Gibbs Racing after a ten-year run that produced 33 Cup wins and two championships to become an owner/driver with Stewart-Haas Racing, many predicted that Stewart would struggle before he tasted success - if he found any success at all - for the dual role of driver/owner hadn't borne fruit of any substance since Ricky Rudd won a Cup race at Martinsville in 1998.

But, with a handful of top ten finishes early in the year, followed by top fives that included three second-place results, it became apparent that conventional thinking did not apply to the unconventional Stewart, who duly ended the 375-race run that had grown since Rudd's victory by putting the #14 Chevy into Victory Lane at Pocono courtesy of a mix of guile and strategy.

The multi-tasking Cup Series veteran not only won, however, but ended the winless streak for owner/drivers in impressive fashion.

When qualifying was washed out on Friday, Stewart was awarded the pole thanks to his recently-acquired first place in the points race. Second place at Dover a week previously had made 'Smoke' the first owner/driver to sit atop the points since Alan Kulwicki in November 1992, ending a 556-race span, but the pole position went away after Saturday morning's first practice session at Pocono when Stewart spun his car at the 'tunnel turn'.

As the nose of his Chevy slid through the infield grass, it was gouged so badly by divots that Stewart was forced to a back-up car, and that meant that, instead of starting first in the 43-car field, he would start last.

It seemed of little matter, however, as Stewart cracked the top ten before 50 laps were completed and, with a simialr distance remaining, he was second only to Carl Edwards. That's where things got really interesting....

When the yellow caution flag waved for the final time, for debris on lap 159, it set the stage for a fuel mileage race. Some teams were cutting it incredibly close, others knew they had no chance - but Stewart and crew chief Darian Grubb were not among the latter group.

The duo calculated that, with smart driving and sharp fuel economy, they could go the distance. Making their decision somewhat easier was their pit crew's quick work, as the #14 team serviced Stewart's car faster than the crew of Edwards, getting him off pit-road to take the lead when the green flag dropped on lap 166.

Even with Edwards and three-time Cup champion Johnson in pursuit, it didn't turn out to be much of a race, for everyone was watching the fuel gauges. With the pace backed way down, and cutting the engine to coast into and through the corners, it was clear Stewart wasn't about to be denied, and he eventually took the win by 2.004secs over Edwards to secure his 34th career Cup victory, his first point-paying win of the season and his second at Pocono.

"We had an awesome day," said Stewart, who won his first Sprint Cup race at Pocono back in June 2003, "Darian said we weren't going to try to be fancy and not going to do anything tricky trying to get track position. We were just going to stick to our gameplan and we did that. We never tried to take two tyres to get track position or anything, but we were able to get through the first half of the pack pretty quick and, once we got there, we finally started getting in better air and just had a really good car.

"We were consistently in the top-three speed-wise all day, and we were able to run guys down. We were able to stay out a couple of laps longer than everybody all day, but the trade-off to that was they would get fresh tyres and two or three seconds on us, and we had to whittle that back down after we would make our stop. It was fun, though, knowing that you had a car that you could do that with.

"Then, at the end, we had an awesome pit-stop. The guys have been doing such a great job all year, coming in second and coming out with a lead like that. That was really the turning point there for us at the end. And, once we got that lead and we were able to hold Carl off, they went into the fuel mode and tried to conserve, and as soon as we got a little bit of a lead, we were able to do the same thing.

"It's just listening to Darian as he knows what pace we need to run. He just kept backing me down when I would get going too hard or too quick. He would tell me he needed more and we would slow down a little more. You hate to be in that situation, but that's a theme here when we come to Pocono. With it being such a long track like this, fuel mileage is going to be important. It was just a matter of running hard enough to stay in the lead, but slow enough to save fuel in case we had a green-white-chequered at the end."

The win was the first point-paying victory for SHR - where Stewart's $1m success in the Sprint All-Star Race wasn't - and the high-fives and backslapping marked an extended 71-point lead over Jeff Gordon heading into the series' next race at Michigan International Speedway.

Stewart initially contented himself with swinging a white towel, emblazoned with the name of the circuit, above his head, and fans can now bid to buy the self-same champagne- and sweat-soaked item as sponsor Old Spice puts it up for a week-long auction to benefit the Tony Stewart Foundation. Fans can place a bid for the autographed towel by logging on to www.OldSpice.com or www.TonyStewart.com from 9am EDT today [Monday 8 June].

The practice of auctioning off every victory towel from Stewart's 2009 season has so far netted , $1025 from the Nationwide Series win at Daytona and $814 following the All-Star Race. Since 2006, when Old Spice first began auctioning off Stewart's victory lane towels, a total of $20,418.01 has been raised for charity.


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