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Stewart wins Dover after dominant cars fall by the wayside

Tony Stewart claimed his first win of a hitherto under-par 2013 season at Dover International Speedway after engine issues, mechanical problems and penalties beset the top runners.
Some may call it a lucky win, but Tony Stewart's had enough bad luck so far in 2013 that he'll take it however it comes. When the opportunity came to benefit from the misfortunes of other drivers who had earlier dominated the afternoon's FedEx 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the one-mile Dover International Speedway on Sunday, he seized the chance with both hands and didn't let go until the chequered flag came out.

Denny Hamlin had started the race from pole and quickly pulled out a one second lead over Martin Truex Jr., who had to surrender second spot to Hamlin's Joe Gibbs Racing team mates Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch. After 23 laps it was Busch who seized the lead from Hamlin and started to build up an even more impressive lead of nearly three seconds in short order.

Less happy with things was Danica Patrick, who after a solid start had taken right front damage from jostling with David Stremme and who needed to pit early on lap 41 to get the #10's handling sorted out. Both Richard Petty Motorsports drivers went a lap down early, and even Jimmie Johnson -struggling with a horribly loose #48 - succumbed to Busch just before his own first pit stop on lap 71. Not that the JGR trio were having it all their own way, as Hamlin missed pit road on his own stop and had to cycle around again, losing position and dropping to seventh as a result just ahead of the first caution of the day for debris on lap 79 which came after everyone had completed their first round of stops.

Busch continued to lead at the restart ahead of Kenseth, Truex, Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin, while Jimmie Johnson was a lot happier after his Hendrick Motorsports crew had dialled in changes and was now in 15th and moving forward having got back on the lead lap whereas his team mate Jeff Gordon was struggling with the #24 now too tight as the race completed its first quarter. Kurt Busch has the opposite problem, the #78 Furniture Row Racing car desperately loose sending him further off the pace, making him particularly appreciative of the second debris caution on lap 127 that allowed for a new round of pit stops to put things right.

Kenseth beat Busch off pit road to lead at the restart, with Truex holding on to third as the Earnhardt-Ganassi pair of Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray moving into the top six and jockeying for position with Kasey Kahne. But Kenseth's time at the top was soon over, his Toyota engine blowing which sent him on a one-way crawl to the garage on lap 160 coinciding with the third caution of the afternoon caused by debris and fluid on the track, partly from his engine failure and partly from a tyre blow-out afflicting Penske Racing's Joey Logano.

"I can't be any easier on it than I've been," said Kenseth of his engine failure. "It's just something was wrong. You know what I mean? It's not driver-induced, it's not too many miles in practice.

"I really feel like JGR has three of the strongest race teams and three of the best cars in the garage, but you've got to finish these races to win and you've got to finish races to try to win championships," Kenseth added. "Hopefully we'll have it all figured out before September," when the Chase begins.

Busch led at the restart with Truex, Hamlin, Kahne, McMurray and Montoya now joined by Kevin Harvick and a resurgent Johnson in the top eight on lap 172 as the halfway point loomed into view and the clouds built up overhead, cooling off the track and making everyone worry about pop=up showers moving into the area. As the race passed lap 200, Busch continued to lead but was struggling on his worn tyres and now firmly in the sights of a flying #48; on lap 205 the deed was done and the JGR domination was over as Johnson took charge and Busch dropped to third behind Truex. Hamlin was showing similar signs of fading, yielding fifth place to Harvick just before a round of green flag pit stops began on lap 235.

With 150 laps to go, Johnson led Truex, Busch, Hamlin and Harvick, while it was proving a depressing afternoon for the Roush Fenway Racing team with all three drivers (Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Greg Biffle) all having been lapped at a track they are traditionally strong at. But on lap 279, it was Truex's turn to exit the proceedings, with the second Toyota engine failure of the day bringing out the fourth caution of the race and making the remaining JGR and MWR runners increasingly nervous about their chances of surviving the remaining 121 laps - and Toyota execs watching increasingly nervous of the increasingly shaky reputation of their product in the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.




Related Pictures

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Tony Stewart, driver of the NASCAR Sprint Cup #14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS celebrates with the fans at Dover International Speedway after winning the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks in Dover, Delaware Sunday, June 2, 2103. (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevrolet)
Tony Stewart, driver of the NASCAR Sprint Cup #14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS takes the chequered flag winning the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware Sunday, June 2, 2103 . (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk for Chevrolet)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, races to the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on June 2, 2013 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Tony Stewart, driver of the NASCAR Sprint Cup #14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS celebrates his win of the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway Sunday, June 2, 2103  in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Alan Marler for Chevrolet)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, poses with his team before his last race, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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