Stewart revives title bid with victory
|By Diego Mejia||Monday, October 11th 2010, 01:48 GMT|
Tony Stewart fended off Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer in a sprint to the finish at Fontana, claiming his second win of the season and charging back in the NASCAR Chase standings.
The two-time Sprint Cup champion, who ran as a contender among the top five for most of the event, made an impressive restart following the penultimate caution period, claiming the lead from fourth in the order after the green flag waved with 12 laps remaining.
An incident between David Ragan and title contender Kurt Busch with seven laps to go set up a short sprint to the chequered flag in the final two laps, where five-time Fontana winner Jimmie Johnson looked a serious threat.
Stewart was quick off the line at the green flag and was able to clear Johnson before Turn 1, leaving the champion to battle it out for second with Richard Childress Racing's Clint Bowyer on the final lap.
The Stewart-Haas owner/driver went on to claim his first career victory at Fontana, one of three venues where he had still to win for the first time, while behind him Bowyer managed to beat Johnson for second at the reigning champion's hometrack.
The win for Stewart means he has jumped up five spots in the Chase for the championship, and is now placed fifth - 107 points behind Johnson.
"I just knew the [final] restart was going to be critical and if I could get through [Turns] 1 and 2 and still have the lead off [Turn] 2, then I would have a shot at it," said Stewart, whose victory helped secure Chevrolet's eighth consecutive manufacturers' title.
"We got a good restart picking the top there. Good thing Clint Bowyer was there to keep Jimmie honest and keep him busy and that just let us do our own thing on the last lap and run our lines."
Bowyer was happy to bounce back from a few difficult weeks following his penalties after his win in the Chase opener at Loudon. However he was unhappy to see the penultimate caution come out while he was comfortably in the lead, alleging that the debris that caused it had already been on the track for a while before officials decided to show the yellow flags.
"After the last two weeks we had, I'm frustrated." said Bowyer. "I want to redeem myself. We're a race-winning team and we need to go out and prove that that last one wasn't a hoax. That mystery caution came out. That piece of debris was out there the whole run. It's a shame, but I guess it made a better race out of it."
Johnson's third-place finish did not make the Hendrick Motorsports happy even though he now holds a healthier lead in the Chase standings over Denny Hamlin. He led the race three times and for 22 laps, but felt the final caution hurt his chances of beating Stewart as he had to contend with a charging Bowyer.
"I think if it had stayed green at the end, we had a shot to get the #14 [Stewart]," said Johnson. "But it didn't turn out that way, there was a caution at the end with that wreck. Starting on the inside was kind of a problem for me. I just didn't get going like I needed to. The #33 [Bowyer] got there."
Richard Petty's Kasey Kahne and Stewart's team-mate Ryan Newman rounded out the top five, while Mark Martin led the most laps but was sixth in the end, claiming his first top-10 result for the past nine weeks. Delays in the pits hampered his prospects of victory and the short green-flag runs in the closing stages did not help his chances either.
Kevin Harvick recovered from a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pits and finished seventh ahead of Hamlin, while Jeff Gordon similarly bounced back from a penalty to finish ninth, making the most of two new tyres he got when he pitted during the final caution. David Reutimann rounded out the top 10 for Michael Waltrip Racing.
The race proved a nightmare for Roush Fenway Racing as all the team's cars hit trouble. First it was Kansas winner Greg Biffle suffering an engine failure, then Carl Edwards stopped on the track with electrical glitches, while a tyre rubbing on a fender of Matt Kenseth's car in the final sprint put him way down in the order.
Kyle Busch suffered yet another blow to his title hopes after the engine on his car expired with 45 laps remaining and while running in the top 10.
Pos Driver Car Laps 1. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 200 2. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 200 3. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 200 4. Kasey Kahne Ford 200 5. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 200 6. Mark Martin Chevrolet 200 7. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 200 8. Denny Hamlin Toyota 200 9. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 200 10. David Reutimann Toyota 200 11. Joey Logano Toyota 200 12. Regan Smith Chevrolet 200 13. Elliott Sadler Ford 200 14. Juan Pablo Montoya Chevrolet 200 15. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 200 16. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 200 17. Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 200 18. Martin Truex Jr Toyota 200 19. AJ Allmendinger Ford 200 20. David Gilliland Ford 200 21. Kurt Busch Dodge 200 22. Paul Menard Ford 200 23. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 200 24. Scott Speed Toyota 200 25. Casey Mears Toyota 200 26. Brad Keselowski Dodge 200 27. Reed Sorenson Toyota 200 28. Travis Kvapil Ford 200 29. Dave Blaney Ford 200 30. Matt Kenseth Ford 200 31. Kevin Conway Toyota 197 32. David Ragan Ford 193 33. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 193 34. Carl Edwards Ford 187 35. Kyle Busch Toyota 155 36. Andy Lally Chevrolet 76 37. Joe Nemechek Toyota 69 38. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 56 39. Michael McDowell Chevrolet 55 40. Landon Cassill Toyota 43 41. Greg Biffle Ford 40 42. JJ Yeley Chevrolet 33 43. Jason Leffler Toyota 23