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Tony Stewart beats Edwards and Johnson in Atlanta

by Pete McCole
Sunday, September 05, 2010

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Race winner Tony Stewart

Tony Stewart saved his best restart for last to beat out Carl Edwards to end a 31-race winless drought with a victory in Sunday night’s Emory Healthcare 500 Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Stewart pulled away from Edwards on the final restart with 19 laps to go and was never threatened as he sailed to his first victory since winning at Kansas Speedway last October.

Jimmie Johnson came home third, followed by Jeff Burton and Kyle Busch.

Stewart’s led a total of 176 laps en route to his third victory at Atlanta and the 38th of his career, coming just at the right time to carry momentum into the Chase for the Sprint Cup with one race left to go before the end of the regular season.

“I have never been so happy to win a race in my life, it's been awhile,” said Stewart. “This is a place that's not been good to us. I know the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) was really good and we had to fight him, but we were pretty good and the No. 99 Carl Edwards was good all night too so we definitely earned this one. We had an awesome car tonight.

“I forgot what it was like, it has been so long. It's been, I don't know how many races it's been, but it seems like an eternity since we won a race. Especially with the Chase a week away now, we needed these 10 points and we need this momentum.”

Stewart seemed to have the only car that could stay up front, as he, Edwards, Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne traded the lead seven times over the final 75 laps. Johnson was in the mix as well, often as the third car in several three-wide passes for the lead.

After Brad Keselowski’s spin on lap 296, the field came to pit road with Stewart’s crew getting him out first. Stewart, who had struggled on restarts all night, managed to get away clean with Edwards and Johnson closing in.

On lap 304, Kahne and Ryan Newman got together, cutting down Kahne’s left front tire and bringing out the eighth and final caution. Most of the leaders stayed out while Burton and Kyle Busch pitted for fresh rubber.

With Edwards and Johnson looking to pounce at the slightest stumble, Stewart made a perfect restart and quickly left the field behind, cruising to the finish line by 1.316 seconds over Edwards.

“Tony just had such a fast car there at the end, but we’re back,” said Edwards. “We’re doing it. We’re scoring more points than anybody.  We’re heading into the chase.  I know we don’t look like we did in 2008, but we’re better set to go race for that championship now than we’ve ever been.”

Stewart and Edwards both clinched a spot in the 12-driver Chase field, as did everyone in the top ten in points, despite a bad night by several of the front runners.

After starting out on the pole and leading 74 of the first 140 laps, Denny Hamlin’s engine expired and sent him spinning down the front stretch on lap 143, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish.

Kevin Harvick suffered suspension damage on his Chevy and was forced to the garage, finishing in 33rd.

Clint Bowyer came into Sunday night’s race in the 12th and final qualifying spot for the Chase with a 100-point edge over Jamie McMurray and Mark Martin and desperately needed a good finish to stay ahead of the pack.

Bowyer finished seventh to hold onto the 12th spot while Martin and McMurray both slipped back one position while Ryan Newman jumped two spots to 13th, but still 113 points behind Bowyer who now needs only to finish 28th or better at next weekend’s race at Richmond.

“That is absolutely what we needed,” said Bowyer. “It was a hard fought battle. Not what we wanted, but darn sure what we needed. I don't know where we are at or whatever, or what we are going to have to do, but certainly running out of running out of races, but we are gaining points so that is a good feeling.”

Harvick still holds the points lead by 219 over Jeff Gordon. Kyle Busch is third, followed by Stewart, Edwards, Burton, Johnson, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Hamlin. Greg Biffle hangs onto the 11th spot ahead of Bowyer.

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 5 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Old Spice 195/10 325 Running
2 4 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 175/5 325 Running
3 7 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Kobalt Tools 170/5 325 Running
4 26 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 160/0 325 Running
5 3 18 Kyle Busch Toyota Pedigree 160/5 325 Running
6 11 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 155/5 325 Running
7 14 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet BB&T 146/0 325 Running
8 2 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet U.S. Army Reserve 147/5 325 Running
9 8 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Huggies 138/0 325 Running
10 32 47 Marcos Ambrose Toyota Little Debbie 134/0 325 Running
11 30 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Crown Royal Black 130/0 325 Running
12 6 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 127/0 325 Running
13 18 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation / DuPont 124/0 325 Running
14 33 83 Reed Sorenson Toyota Red Bull 121/0 325 Running
15 12 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet McDonald's 118/0 325 Running
16 13 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Outdoors Mossy Oak 115/0 325 Running
17 27 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row Companies 112/0 325 Running
18 16 43 A.J. Allmendinger Ford Insignia HDTV / Best Buy 109/0 325 Running
19 9 6 David Ragan Ford UPS 106/0 325 Running
20 36 37 David Gilliland Ford Taco Bell 103/0 325 Running
21 17 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet Carquest / GoDaddy.com 100/0 325 Running
22 25 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / Amp Energy 97/0 325 Running
23 40 21 Bill Elliott Ford FordParts.com 94/0 325 Running
24 37 38 Dave Blaney Ford A&W All American Food 91/0 325 Running
25 28 12 Brad Keselowski Dodge Penske Racing 88/0 325 Running
26 43 13 Casey Mears Toyota GEICO 85/0 325 Running
27 31 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 82/0 325 Running
28 35 26 Patrick Carpentier Ford Air National Guard 79/0 323 Running
29 41 34 Travis Kvapil Ford Long John Silver's 76/0 323 Running
30 21 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Mobil 1 73/0 322 Running
31 24 71 Bobby Labonte Chevrolet TaxSlayer.com 70/0 320 Running
32 10 9 Kasey Kahne Ford Budweiser / Valvoline 72/5 310 Running
33 29 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 69/5 309 In Pit
34 20 82 Scott Speed Toyota Red Bull 61/0 264 Out of Race
35 19 98 Paul Menard Ford Quaker State / Menards 58/0 263 Out of Race
36 15 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M Scotch-Blue Painter's Tape 55/0 245 Running
37 42 7 Kevin Conway * Toyota Extenze 52/0 162 In Pit
38 34 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota FrontRowJoe.com 49/0 161 In Pit
39 23 46 Michael McDowell Chevrolet Whitney Motorsports 46/0 160 In Pit
40 38 36 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet Tommy Baldwin Racing 43/0 152 Out of Race
41 22 19 Elliott Sadler Ford Stanley 40/0 150 Running
42 39 55 Mike Bliss Toyota Prism Motorsports 37/0 145 Out of Race
43 1 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota Sport Clips 39/5 143 Out of Race

* Denotes Rookie

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