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Stewart wins at Fontana; Johnson pads lead

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Fontana
Sunday, October 10, 2010

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Tony Stewart makes it 3-wide
CIA Stock Photo

Tony Stewart still needs help to catch NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Jimmie Johnson, but he jump-started his climb back into contention for the series championship Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.

Stewart beat resilient Clint Bowyer to the finish line by 0.466 seconds In Sunday’s Pepsi Max 400 to win his first race at the 2-mile track, his second of the year and the 39th of his career.

In sharp contrast to Stewart’s win, which left him 107 points behind third-place finisher and Chase leader Jimmie Johnson, a handful of Chase drivers took big hits in the championship battle.

Down for the count are Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle, both of whom suffered blown engines. An ignition rotor failure KO’d Carl Edwards, and a late-race wreck with David Ragan all but dashed Kurt Busch’s chances for a second title.

Johnson, on the other hand, leaves his home track 36 points ahead of second-place Denny Hamlin, who came home eighth Sunday. With the Chase field spreading out four races into the series’ postseason, only Hamlin, Kevin Harvick (54 points back) and Jeff Gordon (85 back) are within 100 points of the four-time defending champion with six races left.

Non-Chasers Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Mark Martin finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively. Harvick came home seventh, followed by Hamlin, Gordon and David Reutimann.

Stewart, who gets his engines and chassis from Hendrick Motorsports, isn’t about to discount his chances of winning a third NASCAR Sprint Cup title.

“We’re doing everything we can do,” said Stewart, who took the lead one lap after a restart on Lap 188 and held it the rest of the way. “We’re going to need some help, but we’re doing everything we can do. I’m proud of these guys, and just so thankful … they refuse to give up, they refuse to back down. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing here.”

Though happy to have a fast racecar, Bowyer was disappointed to leave Fontana without a victory. Bowyer won the first Chase race, at New Hampshire, only to have the victory tainted by a 150-point penalty after his winning car failed inspection at NASCAR’s tech center in Concord, N.C.

“A good run was crucial for our race team after what had happened with our win, and we got that today. But I was frustrated I didn’t get a win,” said Bowyer, who passed Johnson for the runner-up position after a restart with two laps left in the race.

“I really, really wanted to win just to set the record straight on what had happened with the last win. We’re capable of winning races, and if we keep doing what we did today, we’re going to win another one.”

It was a disastrous day for Roush Fenway Racing, which got a team-best finish of 30th from Matt Kenseth. Biffle’s engine exploded on Lap 40, relegating him to a 41st-place result.

On a restart 18 laps later, Edwards developed his ignition problem and lost 14 laps while his crew repaired his No. 99 Ford. Edwards finished 34th and, like Biffle, sustained a crushing blow to his championship hopes.

Biffle, last week’s winner at Kansas, summed it up after climbing from his car: “It’s disappointing, but what can you do? It broke. Everybody is giving this program 110 percent, so you can’t blame anybody. We were trying hard to win the title—and it isn’t going to happen this year.”

Likewise, Kyle Busch saw his title aspirations disappear in smoke when his engine blew on Lap 154. He finished 35th.

Gordon also took a hit in the points after being flagged for speeding on pit road during stops under caution on Lap 156. He rallied for a ninth-place finish but still lost significant ground to Johnson.

In sweeping the top three positions, Chevrolet won its 34th manufacturers’ championship in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

Results

FIN ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 22 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Old Spice 190/5 200 Running
2 13 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet The Hartford 175/5 200 Running
3 8 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's / Jimmie Johnson Foundation 170/5 200 Running
4 5 9 Kasey Kahne Ford Budweiser 160/0 200 Running
5 14 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Tornados 155/0 200 Running
6 11 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet Carquest / GoDaddy.com 160/10 200 Running
7 21 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 146/0 200 Running
8 34 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Office 142/0 200 Running
9 17 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet Pepsi Max / DuPont 143/5 200 Running
10 23 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 134/0 200 Running
11 10 20 Joey Logano Toyota The Home Depot 130/0 200 Running
12 19 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Farm American 132/5 200 Running
13 2 19 Elliott Sadler Ford Reynolds 124/0 200 Running
14 4 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 126/5 200 Running
15 37 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Mobil 1 118/0 200 Running
16 9 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet Amp Energy / National Guard 120/5 200 Running
17 1 1 Jamie McMurray Chevrolet McDonald's 117/5 200 Running
18 6 56 Martin Truex Jr. Toyota NAPA Auto Parts 109/0 200 Running
19 30 43 A.J. Allmendinger Ford Valvoline 106/0 200 Running
20 32 38 David Gilliland Ford Taco Bell 108/5 200 Running
21 38 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Operation Home Front / Miller Lite 100/0 200 Running
22 24 98 Paul Menard Ford Vertis / Menards 102/5 200 Running
23 15 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 94/0 200 Running
24 29 82 Scott Speed Toyota Red Bull 91/0 200 Running
25 12 13 Casey Mears Toyota GEICO 88/0 200 Running
26 25 12 Brad Keselowski Dodge Penske Racing 85/0 200 Running
27 27 83 Reed Sorenson Toyota Red Bull 82/0 200 Running
28 40 34 Travis Kvapil Ford Long John Silver's 84/5 200 Running
29 39 37 Dave Blaney Ford A&W All American Food 76/0 200 Running
30 3 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Crown Royal 78/5 200 Running
31 41 7 Kevin Conway * Toyota Extenze 70/0 197 Running
32 18 6 David Ragan Ford UPS Freight 67/0 193 Running
33 26 47 Marcos Ambrose Toyota Little Debbie 64/0 193 Running
34 20 99 Carl Edwards Ford Aflac 61/0 187 Running
35 16 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 63/5 155 Out of Race
36 42 71 Andy Lally Chevrolet The Media Barons 55/0 76 Out of Race
37 35 87 Joe Nemechek Toyota FrontRowJoe.com 52/0 69 In Pit
38 43 09 Bobby Labonte Chevrolet Phoenix Construction / GracewayPharmaceuticals 49/0 56 In Pit
39 28 46 Michael McDowell Chevrolet Whitney's Collision Centers 46/0 55 In Pit
40 36 164 Landon Cassill Toyota Gunselman Motorsports 43/0 43 In Pit
41 7 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 40/0 40 Out of Race
42 31 36 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet Tommy Baldwin Racing 37/0 33 In Pit
43 33 66 Jason Leffler Toyota Prism Motorsports 34/0 23 Out of Race

* Denotes Rookie

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