Stewart wins in Michigan

If you managed to see the last 50 laps of the K-Mart 400 at Michigan, you saw everything that mattered, including Tony Stewart's win after two rain red flags, four cautions, 225 miles of green flag racing and five drivers who almost won.

Stewart wins in Michigan

Stewart, who failed to qualify for the race in the first round, joins Dale Earnhardt Jr as the season's second double-winner.

Earnhardt Sr, Bobby Labonte, Dale Jarrett and Robert Pressley rounded out the top five in a race that ended a handful of laps short of 200, under a red flag.

Earnhardt leaves Michigan second in the championship points race, just 98 behind Labonte.

Stewart won the race while walking on pit road, wondering if he'd have to hold off Earnhardt in a five-lap shootout.

"I don't think there's anything more painful than a shootout," said Stewart as he awaited a race resumption that never happened. "The crew won this one."

Jeremy Mayfield was one storm away from winning his third career race on lap 157, as soaking rains first halted the event for over an hour and a half.

Mayfield had dominated the mid-race, but when the red flag was lifted, a pit error and hard driving to overcome it ended his day early.

Teams were hard-pressed to choose between speed and fuel mileage after Dale Jarrett's runaway, caution-free yawner last year.

From the start, the joker in the deck was foul weather, looming black to the south of this two-mile speed palace.

Polesitter/points leader Labonte was served notice that mashed-foot was a good idea when a win-hungry Rudd led the first lap. Labonte and Rudd would swap the lead for the first half, marred only by Bobby Hamilton's hard crash in turn four on lap 17.

The entire field pitted for rubber on lap 19 and to assess fuel consumption.

Among those needing to tweak their set-ups was Dale Earnhardt Jr, who started sixth and fell deep into the 20's in the race's first seven laps. Driving while complaining of flu symptoms, he would be lapped in 19th place as the race passed halfway.

Then there's Stewart. Starting 28th, the newcomer was on leader Rudd's tail by lap 45, only to shuffle back to sixth after green flag pit-stops that put Mayfield, Labonte, Jeff Gordon, Rudd and Jarrett in the top five.

Spotters reported rain in Turn Three and darkness descended upon the track. Drops hit the windshields,but the immediate threat passed without a caution - or any slowdown in the torrid race pace.

A quick stop for Gordon was for naught when his right rear tyre lost air and forced a second pit before the half-way mark.

Gordon, who's had a mixed year, lost a lap to the field until the second pit window opened on lap 113. He ran second to Mayfield on lap 120, trailed by Labonte, Jarrett and Stewart - but on a different pit sequence. He lost his spot on lap 136 when the green flag run forced another solo stop, just as a wheel concern compelled Mark Martin to pit and lose a lap.

That left just 13 cars on the lead lap with 110 miles to go: Mayfield, Jarrett, Labonte, Rudd and Stewart owned the top five places, trailed by Jeff Burton, Earnhardt, Robert Pressley, Rusty Wallace, John Andretti, Ward Burton, Sterling Marlin and Bill Elliott.

A few moments later, blinding rains whipped by straight-line winds hit the track and the red flag was thrown on lap 150. Cars were parked in turn one as NASCAR officials tried to determine if 50 laps was worth waiting to call it a race.

More than a half hour later, the track was dry and the drivers were racy.

Martin pitted his car in the garage because it was handling so poorly.

"We had nothing to gain or lose(in the points) by doing it," said Martin, who eventually finished 11 laps down.

Mayfield had plenty to lose when a tyre rolled from his pit stall and sent him 13 spots to the back of the starting line, giving Jarrett the point on the lap 157 restart.

Labonte, Rudd, Stewart and Earnhardt rounded out the post-pit top-five.

Labonte and Stewart wasted no time in passing Jarrett, and Earnhardt found the power to move into third, several seconds behind. Mayfield streaked to sixth in 10 laps as Jarrett slipped toward the rear with poor-handling.

Suddenly Mayfield's engine blew with 24 laps to go, bringing out the third caution, and proving there's "no sure thing" in motorsports.

The remaining 12 lead-lap cars pitted and Pressley's two-tyre stop got him off pit road ahead of Stewart, Jarrett, Earnhardt and Burton.

Showers arrived and prolonged Pressley's hopes of a win, but with 17 to go the green waved and Stewart zoomed to the lead with Jarrett and Earnhardt in tow.

With 10 to go, Earnhardt was losing Stewart's scent and Labonte looked for ways around Jarrett.

A green flag race turned decidedly yellow with nine to go as Kenny Irwin, then Geoffrey Bodine suffered wrecks. Earnhardt beat Labonte to the caution by a bumper and Stewart's track advantage disappeared.

But it no longer mattered.

As the field circled, the heaven's opened and the race was first red-flagged, then stopped; Tony Stewart won his second of the year while standing under an umbrella on pit road.

Kmart 400 Race Results
(Pos/No/Driver/Sponsor/Make)

1 20 Tony Stewart Home Depot Pont.
2 3 Dale Earnhardt GM Goodwrench Chevy
3 18 Bobby Labonte Interstate Pont.
4 88 Dale Jarrett Quality Care Ford
5 77 Robert Pressley Jasper Ford
6 22 Ward Burton Caterpillar Pont.
7 2 Rusty Wallace Miller Lite Ford
8 94 Bill Elliott McDonald's Ford
9 43 John Andretti STP/Cheerios Pont
10 40 Sterling Marlin Coors Light Chevy
11 28 Ricky Rudd Texaco/Havoline Ford
12 99 Jeff Burton Exide Batteries Ford
13 8 D. Earnhardt Jr Budweiser Chevy
14 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Chevy
15 26 Jimmy Spencer Big Kmart Ford
16 36 Ken Schrader M - M's Pont.
17 17 Matt Kenseth DeWalt Tools Ford
18 33 Joe Nemechek Oakwood Homes Chevy
19 32 Scott Pruett Tide Ford
20 31 Mike Skinner Lowe's Chevy
21 16 Kevin LePage FamilyClick.com Ford
22 7 Michael Waltrip NationsRent Chevy
23 25 Jerry Nadeau Michael Holigan Chevy
24 10 Johnny Benson Lycos Pont.
25 93 Dave Blaney Amoco Pont.
26 5 Terry Labonte Kellogg's Chevy
27 21 Elliott Sadler Citgo Ford
28 1 Steve Park Pennzoil Chevy
29 13 Robby Gordon Menards Ford
30 55 Kenny Wallace Square D Chevy
31 14 Rick Mast Conseco Pont.
32 97 Chad Little John Deere Ford
33 90 Ed Berrier Hills Bros. Ford
34 75 W. Dallenbach Cartoon Network Ford
35 42 Kenny Irwin BellSouth Chevy
36 11 Brett Bodine Ralph's Ford
37 27 Mike Bliss Viagra Pont.
38 60 Geoffrey Bodine Power Team Chevy
39 44 Kyle Petty Hot Wheels Pont
40 6 Mark Martin Valvoline Ford
41 12 Jeremy Mayfield Mobil 1 Ford
42 9 Stacy Compton Kodiak Ford
43 4 Bobby Hamilton Kodak Film Chevy

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