Perhaps more amazing than Tony Stewart's first victory as an owner/driver was his victory celebration Sunday at Pocono Raceway.

Actually, what was amazing was that Stewart could even manage a celebration at all, after using every trick in the book -- including shutting down his engine entering turn one at the 2.5-mile triangular track -- to save enough fuel to win the Pocono 500.

The win was Stewart's 34th in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, but his first in Cup competition since acquiring an ownership interest in Stewart-Haas Racing before the 2009 season. It is also the first Cup win by an owner/driver since Ricky Rudd won at Martinsville on 27 September 1998.

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"He's doing a damn burnout!" Jeff Gordon's crew chief, Steve Letarte, said in amazement after Stewart began his victory donuts on the frontstretch.

Holding down his speed to the minimum needed to stay ahead of runner-up Carl Edwards, who also was saving fuel, Stewart crossed the finish line 2.004secs ahead of the #99 Ford. David Reutimann ran third, benefiting from late fuel problems for Jimmie Johnson, followed by Gordon - who capitalised on a key fuel-mileage play by Letarte - and Stewart's team-mate Ryan Newman.

Stewart, who increased his lead in the Cup standings to 71 points over Gordon, lost more than four seconds of a 6.8secs lead over Edwards in the final ten laps, but had enough in hand to ensure the victory.

"Breathe easy boys, we're gonna make it," Stewart radioed to his crew as he rolled through the final corner, "God, I'm proud of you guys. You make me look like a genius in here."

"We didn't tell you how to save gas," crew chief Darian Grubb retorted.

Stewart did that on his own, and did so masterfully, as he took the #14 car to victory lane in a Cup race for the first time since 8 December 1968, in Montgomery, Alabama, when Bobby Allison beat Richard Petty to the finish line by four feet. Not that the #14 has run all of them, but the Pocono 500 was the 1329th Cup race since Allison's win.

Stewart became the fourth driver this season to win after being put to the back of the field - after Matt Kenseth (Daytona)

Stewart competed for a decade and won 33 races and two championships at Joe Gibbs Racing, but Sunday's victory had special significance.

"I've always had a great group of people to work with at Gibbs, but it's just a little different when it's your own, you know, when you're the one that's got to be accountable for [it]," Stewart admitted.

Edwards, who won at Pocono last August by conserving fuel, lost the race off pit-road to Stewart on the final stop for both cars, under a caution for debris on lap 159 that was extended to seven laps when a light rain shower crossed the track. Stewart benefited from having pit stall #1, closest to the exit from pit road, a legacy of his pole position, which he had earned on a rainy Friday courtesy of his standing in the owner points.

"I didn't think Tony could save that much fuel, but he did a really good job," said Edwards, who led a race-high 103 of 200 laps, "Our car was getting great fuel mileage all day, and [I'm] just really proud of my guys. We were great on pit-road.

"Tony beat us off of pit-road on that last stop by about three-quarters of a car length or something, and that's primarily because of his pit stall."

Edwards gained five positions in the standings to sixth, 281 point behind Stewart.

Dale Earnhardt Jr ran 27th in his second race with crew chief Lance McGrew, and fell two spots to 20th in the Cup standings. A water pump failure dropped Kurt Busch to 37th at the finish, 18 laps down, and cost him a single position in the standings, while Johnson ran out of fuel on the final lap and coasted home in seventh place to remain third in points.

Denny Hamlin's Toyota stopped running on the first lap because of a fuel system issue and did so again on lap 13 to cause the first two cautions of the race. Hamlin lost 22 laps in all during repairs and finished 38th, dropping five positions to twelfth in the standings as a result.

by Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service