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Stewart shows he's no one-hit wonder

It looked as though Bowyer had this one clinched - that he had enough in reserve to hold off Stewart. But Stewart continued to apply the pressure, hoping for a slight error from Bowyer or possibly just driving the #33 over the edge on fuel. After all, last year Stewart has been on course to win when he had run dry on the final lap and handed the victory to Bowyer. Maybe the gods would restore the balance of fortune this time around? It was worth a try.

Boy, was it ever worth a try. With two laps to go, Smoke's prayers were indeed answered and Bowyer's car ceased to have even fumes to run on. The car choked and crawled for pit lane and Stewart was released to take the white flag and then run the final mile to claim the chequered. For a man who just a fortnight ago couldn't find victory lane with a SatNav and a guide dog, suddenly Stewart couldn't miss it. For a second week in a row.

"If that's not a flip-flop from last year, I don't know what is!" Stewart said to Grubb over the car radio. He could relate all-too-well to the anguish Bowyer was feeling, but he couldn't dwell on that: "That's not the way you want to win, but we're in the Chase now, and we've got to get everything we can get."

A buoyant Grubb revealed that the #14 still had a good two laps' worth of gas on board to cover them in the event of a green-white-chequered that had never materialised. "It's just a huge day for the entire team to battle back from all the adversity we had in the middle of the year," he said.

It was Stewart's 41st win in 456 Cup starts, the eighth for his Stewart/Haas team with crew chief Darian Grubb. And he'd done it by leading just two of the 300 laps of the race - Jeff Gordon took the bonus point for most laps led with 78 in front, followed by Ryan Newman for his 62-lap stint in front at the start of the race and then Clint Bowyer for his so-near run of 49 laps in the lead at the end.

The win puts Stewart into the lead of the Chase championship points battle despite his lack of any wins bonus points coming in. He finally overtakes Kevin Harvick in the Chase, after the #29 struggled with fuel mileage and managed only 12th place by the end after having run in the top five for long stretches during the afternoon. Other Chase contenders had similar problems: by the time Bowyer's fuel ran dry with two to go, Denny Hamlin had also run out of gas a lap earlier and both Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr. had fallen out of contention with flat tyres in the final laps.

But Brad Kesewloski had run an impressive second half of the race to steadily gain in positions, and as others fell away he took advantage to finish in a comfortable second place ahead of Greg Biffle who also ran out of gas in the final seconds but held on to third, while Jeff Gordon - who had clearly been the strongest car out there for a big part of the race - had to settle for fourth place ahead of Red Bull's Brian Vickers. Matt Kenseth recovered from that mid-race spin to lead his Roush Fenway team mates David Ragan and Carl Edwards to a formation finish in sixth, seventh and eighth ahead of Juan Montoya who had made the best of that off-sync call during the cautions to finish in the top ten.

That makes for good news for Brad Keselowski who rises to third in the Chase race, despite also missing out on wins bonus points coming in (his three race win credits were 'burned up' in having to use the wildcard to make the Chase in the first place). Jeff Gordon's the biggest mover this week among the Chase contenders, rallying from the aftermath of a disappointing Chicagoland to climb six spots to fifth place. That puts him just ahead of a three-way battle for sixth in the points between Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch.

Busch never had a race-winning car and was involved in a gripping battle for 13th with Jimmie Johnson when the two made hard contact on lap 279; Busch somehow managed to avoid spinning out, but Johnson came off the worst for it with damage to his suspension for the remainder of the race.

"He was being a bit stubborn ... Just racing really hard, which was just what he's supposed to do" Johnson said of Kyle. "I had gotten inside of him the lap before and had some contact and he was running it really, really tight through the corner and as we got off into 3, he was so tight next to me getting in, it took the air off the spoiler and I was out of control before we ever really got to the turn."


by Andrew Lewin



Related Pictures

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A view of the race action and crowd at the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway today in Loudon, N.H. [Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images]
NASCAR Officials and the crew of the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge driven by Kurt Busch (not pictured) finished a late pre-race inspection as a jet performs a flyover during the performance of the National Anthem prior to the start of the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 25 in Loudon, N.H. [Picture Credit: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, leads Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota, during the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 25 in Loudon, N.H. [Picture Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Ryan Newman, driver of the #39 Haas Automation Chevrolet, and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #4 Red Bull Toyota, lead the field across the start/finish line as they drop the green flag for the start of the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 25 in Loudon, N.H. [Picture Credit: Gregg Ellman-Pool/Getty Images]
Tony Stewart celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 25 in Loudon, N.H. [Picture Credit: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images for NASCAR]
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet SS finished 7th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Earnhardt Jr. is 4th, Gordon is 1st in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammate Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS won. (Photo Credit: HHP/Alan Marler for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS finished 1st, Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS finished 37th Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick  is 22nd, Kahne is 23rd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd.(Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Tami Kelly-Pope for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS celebrates his win Saturday, April 12, 2014 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway in Darlington South Carolina. Harvick is 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. Teammates Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS finished 2nd and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS finished 3rd. (Photo Credit: HHP/Christa L. Thomas for Chevrolet)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the #17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford tangle during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles` Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 12, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, leads the field to start the NASCAR Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway on April 11, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Stewart-Haas Racing team co-owner Gene Haas (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Stewart-Haas Racing team co-owner Gene Haas (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Damage to the winshield of Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Spring is Calling Chevrolet, is repaired on pit road during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet, crashes early in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, lead the field past the green flag after the initial caution ended during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, pits his car damaged by a jet dryer early in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, lead the field past the green flag after the initial caution ended during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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