Stewart wins at Kansas
|By Diego Mejia||Monday, October 5th 2009, 01:21 GMT|
Tony Stewart got his championship challenge back on track with his fourth win of the season at Kansas Speedway.
The two-time Sprint Cup champion gambled on taking two new tyres on his final pitstop under caution, while most of his rivals went for a full set. Despite the grip handicap and a late charge from Jeff Gordon, Stewart was able to make the most of the clean air to win his first race of the Chase.
Earlier in the race, Stewart had already benefited from a two-tyre change, putting his strategy to the test during the fifth caution of the day. He repeated the move on the decisive final stop, jumping leader Greg Biffle in the pits despite the Roush Fenway driver also choosing to change only right-side tyres.
Stewart's victory has allowed him to close to within 67 points of Mark Martin, who despite his seventh-place finish was able to retain the Chase lead.
Gordon was the biggest mover following the last restart, after taking four new tyres on his final stop. From fifth place with 29 laps to go, he moved up all the way to second behind Stewart in the closing laps, but he ran out of time to threaten his lead.
Biffle led the most laps and finished third since he jumped up front during the third caution of the day. He almost went a lap down later as he had pitted right before Brian Vickers spun at the exit of Turn 4 to bring out the caution again. However, as all the leaders dived into the pits he stayed out to reclaim the lead of the race.
Despite running a similar strategy to Stewart in the end, Biffle was unable to run as good as the eventual winner on the final stint, coming under pressure from Juan Pablo Montoya on the closing laps in the fight for third place.
The Colombian had another solid day and continued to prove himself a genuine championship contender with his third consecutive top-5 finish in the Chase. He ran an aggressive race and recovered in the final stint after struggling for balance before his final four-tyre stop.
The Earnhardt Ganassi driver was able to make up ground to both Martin and Jimmie Johnson in the title race, closing to within 51 points of Martin's lead in the points.
Denny Hamlin finished fifth ahead of Kasey Kahne and Chase leader Martin, who had started from pole position. The veteran ran consistently in the top ten without the speed to contend for victory, yet despite that still increased the gap to Johnson by 8 points.
The reigning champion had looked to be the driver to beat ahead of the race, and he later confirmed that by taking the lead on lap 62 for the first time. He went on to remain ahead for a number of laps but got shuffled down the order due to his tyre strategy and struggled to recover.
On the final pitstop, Johnson changed two tyres hoping to gain track position - and he eventually did, moving from sixth to third. However, his tyre strategy didn't pay off and he slid down to ninth place in the end.
Carl Edwards recovered from being a lap down after being penalised for speeding in the pits to finish tenth, while early leader Dale Earnhardt Jr was unable to recover from a penalty for a missing lug nut on his first stop, which dropped him a lap down.
Brad Keselowski impressed on his penultimate outing for Hendrick Motorsports, running consistently in the top-five until an untimely caution dropped him down the order in the second half of the race.
Pos Driver Make Laps 1. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 267 2. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 267 3. Greg Biffle Ford 267 4. Juan Montoya Chevrolet 267 5. Denny Hamlin Toyota 267 6. Kasey Kahne Dodge 267 7. Mark Martin Chevrolet 267 8. David Reutimann Toyota 267 9. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 267 10. Carl Edwards Ford 267 11. Kurt Busch Dodge 267 12. Kyle Busch Toyota 267 13. Brad Keselowski Chevrolet 267 14. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 267 15. Casey Mears Chevrolet 267 16. Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet 267 17. AJ Allmendinger Dodge 267 18. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 267 19. Bill Elliott Ford 266 20. Elliott Sadler Dodge 266 21. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 266 22. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 266 23. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 266 24. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 266 25. David Stremme Dodge 266 26. Reed Sorenson Dodge 266 27. Scott Speed Toyota 266 28. Joey Logano Toyota 266 29. Erik Darnell Ford 265 30. Paul Menard Ford 265 31. Jamie McMurray Ford 264 32. Max Papis Toyota 263 33. John Andretti Chevrolet 263 34. Robby Gordon Toyota 263 35. David Ragan Ford 256 36. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 232 37. Brian Vickers Toyota 208 38. Michael Waltrip Toyota 141 39. Matt Kenseth Ford 134 40. Dave Blaney Toyota 28 41. Mike Bliss Dodge 26 42. Joe Nemechek Toyota 25 43. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 6