Tony Stewart gave Joe Gibbs Racing and Pontiac their first NASCAR Winston Cup victories of the 2001 as he held off Jeff Gordon and Rusty Wallace to take the chequered flag in Saturday night's Pontiac Excitement 400 at the Richmond International Raceway.

Tony Stewart, in his third season of NASCAR Winston Cup competition finally looks set to make a concerted challenge for the NWC points title after scoring his tenth career victory on Saturday night under the lights at the .75-mile Richmond International Raceway.

Stewart, who started seventh, led a total of 93 laps (out of 400), including the final 38 tours to take the chequer with five car lengths to spare after surviving a manic two-lap sprint to the flag.

Jeff Gordon muscled his way passed long-time leader Rusty Wallace to take second place and closed to within 14 points of Dale Jarrett, who finished 15th today, in the points standings while Wallace consoled himself with a total of 276 laps at the head of the field as he claimed third in the race and the current points table.

Steve Park and Virginia native Ricky Rudd completed the top five and once again Rudd spent time leading the race only to fall back when it really mattered while Johnny Benson also didn't have that extra edge to propel him to the lead despite finishing sixth and running with the top ten all day.

Last year's winner Dale Earnhardt Jr led a single lap early on but could only manage seventh place overall ahead of Matt Kenseth, Ken Schrader and defending NWC Champion Bobby Labonte who completed the top ten.

Polesitter Mark Martin kept up his record of leading at least one lap in every race held so far in 2001 although he only led the opening three laps before being eclipsed by Wallace and the Roush Racing driver eventually dropped to 13th.

Full results and report to follow.