Tony Stewart breaks losing streak with $1M win
Chevy driver Tony Stewart finally chalked up his first victory as a car owner as he survived a wild 10-lap shootout to walk away with the victory and a cool million dollars in the 25th running of the NASCAR Sprint All Star race Saturday night at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
Stewart passed Matt Kenseth with two laps to go and pulled away to score his first victory in 11 starts in the All Star race, and his first win as a driver/owner for the new Stewart-Haas Motorsports.
Kenseth held on to finish second, followed by Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Mark Martin and Kyle Busch.
With the victory, Stewart becomes only the second driver/owner to win the all star event after Geoffrey Bodine won the race in 1994.
The win was a vindication for Stewart, who left Joe Gibbs Racing last season after 10 years to join Gene Haas in a new race venture. His new team had yet to visit victory lane this season, despite eight top-five and 13 top-ten finishes.
“Oh, it's awesome,” said Stewart. “I've got to thank our fans. They've been behind us all year. This is for two people and one group of people: That's Gene Haas and (team general manager) Joe Custer and then for all these fans.”
Haas, just released from prison after serving a 16-month sentence for tax fraud, was at the track for his first race since the new team was formed at the beginning of the 2009 season.
“I'll tell you, (Haas) is not going to miss a weekend. He gets here and the first week he's here, we win the race,” said Stewart. “So I'm just so thankful that he and Joe Custer gave us the opportunity and Chevrolet for standing behind us and just knowing that we had a long road to hoe.
“The most fun part about it from the ownership side was getting some of these guys to Victory Lane that have never been there before. To get those guys there for the first time, that means more than a million dollars does to me.”
It was a remarkable comeback for Stewart, who started 15th after botching his qualifying attempt on Friday when he left his pit still stall after only taking two tires during the mandatory four-tire stop.
Despite the fireworks during the final 10 laps, much of the race progressed problem free from the drop of the green flag.
Jimmie Johnson led all 50 laps of the first segment from the pole position, giving up the lead to come to pit road for fresh tires as Kyle Busch moved up to take over the top spot.
Kyle Busch led all 20 laps of the second segment, staying on the track to lead the field to the green flag for the third segment.
Greg Biffle became the first casualty of the night, as he hit the wall after contact from Sprint Showdown winner Sam Hornish, Jr. to bring out the first unscheduled caution flag of the night on lap 71.
Busch led 10 laps of the 20-lap segment before his car began to tighten up, allowing Jeff Gordon to move past Kyle Busch and lead the final 10 laps of the third segment.
Greg Biffle became the first casualty of the night, as he hit the wall after contact from Sprint Showdown winner Sam Hornish, Jr. to bring out the first unscheduled caution flag of the night.
The field then came to pit road for a 10-minute break before hitting the track for the final 10-lap shootout.
Gordon led the field to the green followed by Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson.
The final segment proved to be a wild one as Johnson spun off the front bumper of Denny Hamlin to bring out the caution flag on the first lap. Kyle Busch then blasted through the middle to pass Gordon to take the lead as Ryan Newman moved to challenge for the lead.
Coming back from a shock problem that out him a lap down early in the race, Newman moved up from ninth-place on the restart to go three-wide for the lead with Kyle Busch and Gordon when he bounced off the wall, sending Gordon spinning into the outside wall.
Kyle Busch retained the lead but held on just two laps before Kenseth made the move on the low side to take over the top spot before the final caution waved with five laps to go for debris.
After the restart it was Stewart’s turn to make a bid for the lead.
Restarting sixth at the start of the final segment, Stewart got by Kyle Busch to take the second position and then looked to the low side on Kenseth, but couldn’t hold the bottom long enough to make the pass.
On the very next lap, Kenseth again left the bottom open, and Stewart cashed in, making the final million-dollar pass for the lead.
“I've said this 50 times since I got out of the car: I can't believe he gave me the bottom,” said Stewart. “I just cannot believe he gave me the bottom. But I'll take it.
“We weren't that good until the last run. Darien Grubb (crew chief), I mean he made some awesome calls there at the end to get us where I could drive that thing the way I could. Man, it was fast. We got to second there, got by the No. 18 and I thought all right, we have a shot at this thing.”
Kenseth finished a disappointing second, coming up just two laps shy of his second all-star victory.
“It sucks getting beat, obviously,” said Kenseth. “It’s better to run second than anywhere else but first, but, on the other hand, it’s disappointing when you take two to go on the track and you’re in the lead and you come home second. I feel bad that we got beat, but I think I could do it 100 times and I couldn’t hold him off.”
Rookie Joey Logano, who won the Sprint Fan Vote to qualify for the All Star race, finished seventh ahead of Jamie McMurray, who advanced to the All Star field after finishing second in the Sprint Showdown. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rounded out the top ten.
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