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Fontana win puts Stewart back in the Chase

Menard and Smith were pawns for the real leaders of the race: Stewart boosted Menard for all he was worth, and with Smith blocking the inside line Smoke attempted to sweep around the outside into the lead. Smith did his best to hold off Stewart but ultimately the fresh rubber on the #14 was irresistible and Stewart claimed the race lead next time around.

As the race entered its final stages, suddenly a third Roush Fenway Chase contender was hitting problems: smoke was coming from under the bodywork of early leader Matt Kenseth's car. The initial impression was that this was tyre rub resulting from damage after some earlier jostling, but soon enough it was clear that the car was badly underpowered. The engine failure might not have been as dramatic as that of Biffle and Busch earlier in the race, but it would prove to be serious enough to drop him down to the back of the lead lap in 30th position by the chequered flag. Essentially, that's Kenseth's Chase over and done with as well - Fontana had taken a heavy toll this year

All that remained was the race win, but there would be one final accident and yellow flag before we got there: on lap 194, David Ragan - who had been sweeping up and down the race track with some wild moves - finally drifted up the race track right into the path of Kurt Busch, who had been running the extreme outside line practically bouncing off the wall. Kurt's front clipped the right rear of Ragan, who spun across the front of the #2 car and stayed there impaled until both cars had lost speed and dropped to the inside. Ragan's day was over, but Busch was able to limp back to the pits with a blown left front tyre and pull off enough in the way of repairs to get back out and salvage 21st position - a grave disappointment and a definite Chase setback, but not the total disaster that had befallen his brother earlier in the day.

When the race restarted there were only two laps to run, and Stewart had the race under control - taking the chequered flag and his first ever Fontana win ahead of Bowyer and Johnson. It puts Stewart right back in the from for the Sprint Cup - in fifth position in the championship, 107pts off the leader - who of course continues to be Jimmie Johnson, who's consistently strong finishes through the final races of the year are the secret of his Chase success.

Full race results



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Tony Stewart - Stewart-Haas Motorsport   [pic credit: NASCAR/Getty]
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