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Stewart wins controversial Talladega

Tony Stewart ended a 43-race win drought by taking his first victory of the season in a controversial finish against rookie Regan Smith at Talladega Superspeedway

'Smoke' led a reduced field of cars on the green-white-chequered restart, followed by Smith and DEI teammate Paul Menard.

The two-time Cup champion led the single-line group of cars until the final metres of the race, where Smith tried to pass on the outside but then went for the inside as Stewart fended off his move.

The 25-year-old rookie went below the yellow line at the bottom of the track and onto the apron as Stewart defended, crossing the finish line ahead of Stewart. However officials were quick to disallow Smith's move, handing Stewart his 33rd career victory and his first in Cup in Talladega.

"I saw the run coming and I made a counter-move early enough to get him committed to one direction and back down the [yellow] line quick," said Stewart about the last lap battle with Smith. "Man, it's a tough position to be in when you're the first or the second guy but we were able to finally get that first win here at Talladega."

Smith eventually lost what would've been his top career finish and was dropped down to 18th place,the last driver on the lead lap, for the yellow line rule violation, promoting teammate Paul Menard to second place and his best ever result at the top level, rounding up a promising showing for DEI.

"They always tell us in the driver's meeting if you get forced to the inside [of the yellow line] you can go for it, especially on the last lap," Smith argued after being stripped of victory.

"We'll see what they make as a ruling. I'm proud of all my guys, proud of DEI and everybody at RCR engines. They've stuck with me all year and it has not been the best of years."

David Ragan was the only survivor of the Roush Fenway drivers, finishing the race in third place. Three of his four teammates were involved in an incident ignited by title contender Carl Edwards when he tapped the back of Greg Biffle's machine in turn three with 15 laps remaining. Also caught up in the wreck was Matt Kenseth and at least nine other cars.

The Roush 'Chasers' were not the only ones crashing out among those fighting for the championship though.

Dale Earnhardt Jr was also involved in the same incident as well as Kevin Harvick, while Denny Hamlin was one of four drivers wrecking due to tyre issues during the day. Jeff Gordon got caught up in a previous incident when David Reutimann blew a right rear tyre, Gordon later retiring with engine problems.

Meanwhile Jimmie Johnson was able to avoid the two big wrecks of the day after coming back from dropping a lap down early on in the race. He finished the race in ninth place and was able to increase his lead at the top of the standing thanks to Edwards taking both himself and Biffle out of contention.

"It feels good especially with what took place with the No. 99 (Carl Edwards) and the No. 16 (Greg Biffle)," Johnson said. "But we had our fair share of problems today. We didn't have speed in the car like we wanted to. We've got to figure out what happened there.

"It started yesterday with qualifying. We weren't sure what was going on and today; the car was pretty flat still. I lost the draft at the start of the race because I couldn't hang on and then from there we got our lap back and dodged wrecks and raced really hard."

Kyle Busch looked like finally getting rid of his bad luck after leading the race for 20 laps, but unfortunately he picked up damage on his car's right front in the Roush-ignited incident. He was forced to make several pitstops under caution and was eventually classified fifteenth, which moves him up ahead of his Gibbs teammate Hamlin at the bottom of the Chase standing.

Juan Pablo Montoya ran an inspired race and led twice for a total of nine laps, looking a contender for victory until he was involved in the last second of the final wreck of the day when teammate Reed Sorenson bounced against him.

Also leading laps but crashing due to a tyre blowout was Brian Vickers, igniting the first major crash of the day on lap 69.

"I thought that we avoided the wreck and somebody went to the bottom," Montoya said. "I thought that I was clear, then somebody wrecked the 41 and he came right into me. It was a rough day. The car was really good today. We're getting closer and closer. It's disappointing because we had a racecar that could have won the race."

Only 27 cars were running at the end of the race out of the 43 that took the green flag. The race saw a record-breaking 28 different leaders during the 190 laps.

Pos  Driver              Car        Laps
 1.  Tony Stewart        Toyota      190
 2.  Paul Menard         Chevrolet   190
 3.  David Ragan         Ford        190
 4.  Jeff Burton         Chevrolet   190
 5.  Clint Bowyer        Chevrolet   190
 6.  Bobby Labonte       Dodge       190
 7.  Scott Riggs         Chevrolet   190
 8.  Robby Gordon        Dodge       190
 9.  Jimmie Johnson      Chevrolet   190
10.  Elliott Sadler      Dodge       190
11.  Joe Nemechek        Chevrolet   190
12.  Kenny Wallace       Toyota      190
13.  Aric Almirola       Chevrolet   190
14.  Casey Mears         Chevrolet   190
15.  Kyle Busch          Toyota      190
16.  Ken Schrader        Toyota      190
17.  Terry Labonte       Dodge       190
18.  Regan Smith         Chevrolet   190
19.  Michael Waltrip     Toyota      187
20.  Kevin Harvick       Chevrolet   179
21.  Kurt Busch          Dodge       177
22.  Dave Blaney         Toyota      176
23.  Reed Sorenson       Dodge       176
24.  Greg Biffle         Ford        174
25.  Juan Montoya        Dodge       173
26.  Matt Kenseth        Ford        173
27.  Travis Kvapil       Ford        173
28.  Dale Earnhardt Jr   Chevrolet   173
29.  Carl Edwards        Ford        173
30.  Mike Wallace        Chevrolet   169
31.  Mike Skinner        Toyota      160
32.  Jamie McMurray      Ford        159
33.  Jon Wood            Ford        154
34.  Tony Raines         Chevrolet   148
35.  Brian Vickers       Toyota      134
36.  Kasey Kahne         Dodge       112
37.  David Reutimann     Toyota      110
38.  Jeff Gordon         Chevrolet   104
39.  Denny Hamlin        Toyota       98
40.  David Gilliland     Ford         68
41.  Martin Truex Jr     Chevrolet    68
42.  Sterling Marlin     Chevrolet    68
43.  Ryan Newman         Dodge        48

Chase For The Cup - Points Standing:

Pos  Driver              Change  Points
 1.  Jimmie Johnson               5718
 2.  Carl Edwards                 5646  + 72
 3.  Greg Biffle                  5641  + 77
 4.  Jeff Burton                  5619  + 99
 5.  Clint Bowyer          +2     5566  +152
 6.  Kevin Harvick         -1     5547  +171
 7.  Tony Stewart          +4     5515  +203
 8.  Jeff Gordon           -2     5486  +232
 9.  Matt Kenseth                 5473  +245
10.  Dale Earnhardt Jr     -2     5469  +249
11.  Kyle Busch            +1     5387  +331
12.  Denny Hamlin          -2     5383  +335

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