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Stewart shows he's no one-hit wonder

Johnson dropped back to 18th place by the chequered flag which bumps him down to tenth place in the Chase - the lowest he's ever been in the post-season battles he's been involved in. Suddenly the prospects for a sixth consecutive title for Johnson look very much diminished.

By contrast to Kyle's decent 11th place at Loudon, his Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Denny Hamlin had a second dreadful Chase outing and ended up in 29th after running dry with three to go, which means he's 66pts off Tony Stewart. It is, effectively, already all over for Hamlin, and he knows it. As for Kurt Busch, he never did really get back into the game after that pre-race upset in inspection. "It was a frustrating day," he admitted. "[The car] was certainly a handful. The front tyres felt like they were on skids, and the car was ploughing through the corners. We were late going through inspection, and that set the tone for our day."

But what about Tony Stewart - is he really the favourite now? Perhaps that's going a little too far, but he points out that the #14's current run of form goes back further than just the two wins: "It's not just these two races of the Chase, it's the two leading up before it, too ... We haven't finished outside the top seven the last four weeks. That's huge for us."

It's certainly huge for the Chase, because it's this type of form - timed for the right moment like this - that really does win championships in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition.

"It's way too early to be counting chickens right now," Stewart insisted. But then, he would - it's the underdog card he's been playing all season long, and it might be the strategy that sees him stop the record-setting run of five-time champion Jimmie Johnson by the time the season ends at Homestead-Miami on November 20 after just eight more races.

Full Chase points standings available.
Full race results available.

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]
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on August 30, 2015 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Pro Services Chevrolet, and Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota, and Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Skittles Toyota, lead the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finishes in ninth place Saturday night, August 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, August 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s Pro Services Chevrolet SS, finishes in fourth place Saturday night, August 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, finishes in second place Saturday night, August 22, 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, celebrates with the chequered flag after winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Jeff Curry/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR XFINITY Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 21, 2015 in Bristol, Tennessee.  (Photo Credit: Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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