2011-09-22 / Sports

Stewart Wins First Chase Race

By Gerald Hodges

Tony Stewart Tony Stewart JOLIET, Ill. – Tony Stewart won Monday’s rain-delayed Sprint Cup race, moving from ninth to second in Chase points.

Stewart gained the lead from Matt Kenseth on Lap 237 of the 267-lap race, and once out front, he started conserving fuel. Martin Truex Jr. briefly passed Stewart, but had to pit for a splash of fuel. Stewart regained the lead and went on to victory lane for his first win of the season.

“This is huge, winning the first race of the Chase,” said Stewart. “Yesterday wasn’t a good day. I had a migraine, but this win has done wonders for it.”

Kevin Harvick closed, but never challenged for the win.

“I was never comfortable with our fuel situation,” said Harvick. “The team gave me the OK with seven-to-go, but I wasn’t sure if we could make it.”

Harvick is the new Chase leader.

The last caution came out with 51 laps left, and not all cars pitted for fuel, and even some of those that did, ran out on the last lap or two. They included Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was one of the cars that did make it, and he finished third.

“The team gave me great pits stops,” said Earnhardt. “The car wasn’t all that good until near the end, when it really took off. I’m pleased with our performance today.”

Carl Edwards was fourth, followed by Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, Mark Mar- tin and Jimmie Johnson.

Except for the question of who was going to run out of fuel and who wasn’t, the race had few tense moments.

Top-12 Chase contenders with nine races left: 1. Harvick 2054, 2. Stewart-2047, 3. Edwards- 2044, 4. Kurt Busch-2043, 5. Earnhardt- 2041, 6. Keselowski-2040, 7. Newman-2040, 8. Johnson- 2038, 9. Kyle Busch-2035, 10. Kenseth-2030, 11. J. Gordon- 2029, 12. Hamlin-2013

The race was originally scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. on Sunday, but persistent rain showers in the Joliet/ Chicago area forced NASCAR to delay it until Monday at 11 a.m.

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