Bowyer wins as Stewart runs dry

Clint Bowyer claimed his first win of the season in the Chase opener at Loudon as Tony Stewart ran out of fuel while leading with just over a lap remaining

Bowyer wins as Stewart runs dry

The Richard Childress Racing driver had been dominant for most of the distance, running 176 out of 300 laps at the front of the field, but it seemed that Stewart, who led the race early on, was heading for a perfect start to his championship playoff.

However both drivers, together with Bowyer's team-mate Jeff Burton, had gambled on staying out during the sixth caution of the race, most of the field pitting to be safe on fuel until the end.

Two further caution periods looked to be just what they needed to get to the finish without stopping again, but as it turned out Bowyer was the only one able to stretch his fuel mileage long enough.

As Stewart was about to start the final lap, his car lost fuel pressure heading out of turn four, allowing Bowyer to take the lead. From behind Denny Hamlin was closing on him without any fuel-mileage concerns, but the RCR driver had just enough of a cushion to claim his third career victory and jump up to second in the Chase standings.

"This reminded me so much of 2007," said Bowyer after winning the first race of the Chase, a feat he also achieved as a title contender three years ago. "Two weeks ago, going into Richmond, your feeling the confidence level in our race team, in our equipment level, everything was good.

"[Crew chief] Shane [Wilson] built a brand new race car and we came here and we were fast right off the truck, and everybody had a lot of confidence, a pep in their step. And we showed it from the time we unloaded to qualifying, practice, we were one of the fastest cars here.

"That's what it takes to run at this level, to be a part of that Chase, if we can go and continue to have as much fun as we did this weekend. I know it's the key, I know it is to my success."

Hamlin recovered well after getting spun by Carl Edwards on lap 213, dropping to 22nd at the time. A determined drive from the Joe Gibbs racer coupled with the right strategy to go flat out in the deciding stages, allowed him to maintain his lead in the standings for a second week.

Making a similar recovery after being penalised for speeding in the pits, Earnhardt Ganassi's Jamie McMurray crossed the finish line in third.

Whilst serving his penalty, this year's Daytona 500 winner took advantage of his visit to the pits to top up with fuel and moved up in the order when many stopped again during the sixth of eight caution periods.

Although he was able to lead the race after that following an aggressive restart, he would have to concede to Stewart later, being passed by Bowyer as well.

Burton's race ended up in a similar disappointment to Stewart's, also running out of fuel with two laps to go and whilst running fourth, handing the position to Hendrick Motorsports' Dale Earnhardt Jr, who was surprisingly the best placed car from his outfit in the end.

Kevin Harvick looked set for a low score as he struggled for balance with his #29 RCR Chevy, but he managed to put his race back on track in the second half of the event, finishing an impressive fifth after making the most of his rivals' mistakes and misfortunes.

Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch managed top-ten finishes as well, while Roush Fenway's Edwards was eleventh, recovering from his contact with Hamlin after running strong right behind Bowyer in the first half of the race.

Reigning champion Jimmie Johnson had a bad start to his playoff with just a 25th place finish behind Stewart. The Hendrick Motorsports driver was involved in two separate incidents during the race and an additional stop under green for a suspected loose wheel late in the race put him a lap down, well down the order.

Another title contender, Penske's Kurt Busch, was also involved in a couple of incidents following contact with his team-mate Brad Keselowski and then later with Burton. Despite the incidents he still salvaged a 13th place finish.

Matt Kenseth was another one to have contact with Keselowski, and struggled with the handling of his car for most of the race, finishing 23rd, the last car on the lead lap.

Pos Driver Car Laps 1. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 300 2. Denny Hamlin Toyota 300 3. Jamie McMurray Chevrolet 300 4. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 300 5. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 300 6. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 300 7. David Reutimann Toyota 300 8. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 300 9. Kyle Busch Toyota 300 10. Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge 300 11. Carl Edwards Ford 300 12. A.J. Allmendinger Ford 300 13. Kurt Busch Dodge 300 14. Kasey Kahne Ford 300 15. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 300 16. Juan Montoya Chevrolet 300 17. Greg Biffle Ford 300 18. Brad Keselowski Dodge 300 19. Regan Smith Chevrolet 300 20. Martin Truex Jr Toyota 300 21. Elliott Sadler Ford 300 22. David Ragan Ford 300 23. Matt Kenseth Ford 300 24. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 300 25. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 299 26. Robby Gordon Toyota 299 27. Reed Sorenson Toyota 299 28. Paul Menard Ford 299 29. Mark Martin Chevrolet 298 30. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 298 31. Dave Blaney Chevrolet 297 32. Travis Kvapil Ford 295 33. David Gilliland Ford 295 34. Tony Raines Ford 295 35. Joey Logano Toyota 256 36. Scott Speed Toyota 213 37. Andy Lally Chevrolet 138 38. Casey Mears Toyota 93 39. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 89 40. Joe Nemechek Toyota 60 41. Mike Bliss Toyota 55 42. Landon Cassill Toyota 40 43. Michael McDowell Dodge 29 
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