Stewart holds off Gordon in Kansas
Stewart, a first-year car owner/driver, raced hard all afternoon with the frontrunners and gambled with crew chief Darian Grubb on the two-tire strategy at the end.
When asked if he saw Gordon in his rear view mirror, Stewart quipped, "He was getting bigger every lap."
Trailing Stewart and Gordon across the finish line were Greg Biffle, Juan Pablo Montoya, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, David Reutimann, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards.
All of the top-10 drivers except Reutimann are battling in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup during the season's final 10 races. Martin, the 50-year-old favorite of older fans, still leads the championship chase with three-time champion Johnson second in the standings. Montoya, with his third consecutive top-five finish in as many races, moved into third place.
The race had 14 different leaders and 25 lead changes, both new track records. It also featured several wheel-to-wheel battles for the lead before a crowd of close to 100,000 at the scenic one-and-a-half mile tri-oval track.
Points leader Martin, in fact, passed several cars in the final laps to get his eighth-place finish.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., led briefly early in the race but a series of mishaps put him back in the pack and his engine finally quit about 30 laps from the finish.
Martin pulled away at the start on a sun-splashed, perfect-for-racing afternoon. On the second lap, Joey Logano got loose in Turn 2 and spun off the track in a cloud of smoke.
Logano made national news at Dover International Speedway last weekend when his Joe Gibbs Toyota made the spectacular-crashes highlight reel, flipping and rolling in a heart-stopping accident. The young driver was not injured and came back Saturday to win the NASCAR Nationwide race at Kansas Speedway, passing teammate Kyle Busch with just two laps to go.
The action at Kansas Speedway resumed on Lap 5 with Martin out front but a multi-car wreck one lap later involved at least five cars and brought out another caution flag. Paul Menard triggered the accident getting sideways out of Turn 2, collecting the machines of Michael Waltrip, David Ragan, Max Papis and Bobby Labonte.
Martin once again led the restart at Lap 11 but Earnhardt moved ahead on Lap 12 and Keselowski passed Martin for second.
At 50 laps, the field had spread out with Earnhardt leading. Keselowski was second followed by Johnson, Stewart, Martin, Reutimann, Kahne, McMurray, Kenseth and Montoya.
Earnhardt fans were ecstatic seeing the green and white No. 88 out front.
Green-flag pit stops started at Lap 53 and once all the leaders had new Goodyears and a full tank of Sunoco gasoline, it was Johnson out front trailed by Keselowski, Johnson, Stewart, Reutimann, Kahne, Martin, Kenseth and Montoya.
Earnhardt dropped all the way back to 32nd after a miscue forced him to return to the pits a second time for a missing lug nut. He lost a lap due to the mishap.
Another caution slowed the field at Lap 69 when Reid Sorensen glanced off the Turn 2 wall.
Biffle took the lead on the Lap 75 restart with Truex second. Kurt Busch was third and Johnson fourth
Biffle and Johnson battled each other fender to fender until Papis got in the way and forced Biffle to give up the lead to Johnson on Lap 102. At that point, it was Johnson, Biffle, Stewart, Keselowski, Montoya, Gordon, Kenseth, Truex, Martin and Hamlin.
Keselowski was the first to pit again on Lap 124 but the caution came out when Brian Vickers spun coming out of Turn 4.
When the race resumed on Lap 130, just a few laps short of halfway, Biffle was back in the lead ahead of Johnson, Montoya, Gordon, Stewart, Hamlin, Martin, Kyle Busch, Kahne and Reutimann. Keselowski had dropped back to 25th.
* Denotes Rookie
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