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Stewart clinches first Cup win of 2010

Tony StewartTony Stewart claimed his first NASCAR Cup win of the season, beating Roush Fenway's Carl Edwards to victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The Stewart Haas racer secured his place in the Chase for the Cup in the process and added 10 bonus points to his total for the championship playoff, which starts in two week's time.

The two-time Cup champion swapped the lead many times in the early going with Joe Gibbs' Denny Hamlin, who looked as his closest challenger before being forced to retire with an engine failure.

After that and despite some poor restarts where he would surrender the lead, Stewart was able to get back up front and make the final pass for victory over Edwards with 25 laps to remaining during the penultimate restart of the event.

In clean air Stewart was untouchable, taking a perfect score along with his 38th career win after leading 176 of the race's 325 laps.

"We had to be the fastest car all night at the beginning of the run," said Stewart. "If we got track position and we got anywhere close to clean air, we were able to just take off.

"Once we get two or three laps in, I didn't have to run as hard as the guys behind me. I was able to take care of the tyres and after five more laps drive away from those guys and open up a huge gap."

Edwards became a factor in the second half of the race but didn't have anything for Stewart once he lost the lead. However, his strong finish allowed him to also get locked into the championship playoff, as the top 10 in the standings have already secured their place in the title fight.

"Tony just had such a fast car there at the end, but we're back," said Edwards. "We're doing it. We're scoring more points than anybody. We're heading into the chase.

"I'm excited about going to Richmond. I'm real excited about starting the chase. We had something that could win the race tonight and that's a blast."

Johnson was third ahead of Richard Childress' Jeff Burton, while Kyle Busch bounced back from a speeding penalty and an unscheduled stop for a loose tyre to finish fifth.

Penske's Kurt Busch also recovered from being a lap down to finish sixth ahead of RCR's Clint Bowyer, who remains 12th in the standings and now with an even healthier gap of 117 points to 13th place, with just next weekend's race at Richmond left before the cut.

Ryan Newman finished eighth after surviving contact with Kasey Kahne in the closing laps. The Richard Petty Motorsports driver hit the wall after Newman got into the back of him. Once his team carried out repairs in the pits, he rejoined the race and retaliated against the Stewart Haas driver, who just managed to avoid crashing and now ranks 13th in the points thanks to his good finish.

Juan Pablo Montoya took a solid ninth behind him, while Australian Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top 10 with a strong final stint.

Roush Fenway's Greg Biffle was involved in an incident with Newman and his car was heavily damaged in the wreck, but he still rejoined the race later on and was credited with a 36th place finish - enough for him to remain 11th in the standings.

Points leader Kevin Harvick was only 33rd after his left front blew up right after he flat-spotted the tyre trying to dive into the pits. The damage caused him to lose any chance of victory and in the end forced him to retire for the first time this season.

Pos  Driver              Car        Laps
 1.  Tony Stewart        Chevrolet  325
 2.  Carl Edwards        Ford       325
 3.  Jimmie Johnson      Chevrolet  325
 4.  Jeff Burton         Chevrolet  325
 5.  Kyle Busch          Toyota     325
 6.  Kurt Busch          Dodge      325
 7.  Clint Bowyer        Chevrolet  325
 8.  Ryan Newman         Chevrolet  325
 9.  Juan Montoya        Chevrolet  325
10.  Marcos Ambrose      Toyota     325
11.  Matt Kenseth        Ford       325
12.  Martin Truex Jr     Toyota     325
13.  Jeff Gordon         Chevrolet  325
14.  Reed Sorenson       Toyota     325
15.  Jamie McMurray      Chevrolet  325
16.  David Reutimann     Toyota     325
17.  Regan Smith         Chevrolet  325
18.  AJ Allmendinger     Ford       325
19.  David Ragan         Ford       325
20.  David Gilliland     Ford       325
21.  Mark Martin         Chevrolet  325
22.  Dale Earnhardt Jr   Chevrolet  325
23.  Bill Elliott        Ford       325
24.  Dave Blaney         Ford       325
25.  Brad Keselowski     Dodge      324
26.  Casey Mears         Toyota     324
27.  Joey Logano         Toyota     324
28.  Patrick Carpentier  Ford       323
29.  Travis Kvapil       Ford       323
30.  Sam Hornish Jr      Dodge      322
31.  Bobby Labonte       Chevrolet  320
32.  Kasey Kahne         Ford       310
33.  Kevin Harvick       Chevrolet  309
34.  Scott Speed         Toyota     264
35.  Paul Menard         Ford       263
36.  Greg Biffle         Ford       245
37.  Kevin Conway        Toyota     162
38.  Joe Nemechek        Toyota     161
39.  Michael McDowell    Chevrolet  160
40.  JJ Yeley            Chevrolet  152
41.  Elliott Sadler      Ford       150
42.  Mike Bliss          Toyota     145
43.  Denny Hamlin        Toyota     143
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