LONG POND, Pa. (AP) - All Tony Stewart could do the final laps
at Pocono Raceway was use every trick available to stretch out his
fuel and creep toward the finish line.
Like the gamble he made to leave Joe Gibbs Racing and start his
own team, the fuel-mileage call was the right one. Stewart matched
his win in the All-Star race with his first Cup points victory as a
team owner Sunday, coming from the rear of the field in his backup
car at Pocono.
"We're just thankful we could make it," Stewart said.
He crossed the line on fumes, even as his own Stewart-Haas
Racing operation seems to have plenty of fuel.
"It's easy when you've got the tools in place," Stewart said.
"When you've got a car like we had today, you know that you've got
a shot at it. It's just going to be a long day and it's going to
take a long time to get there."
Stewart needed time to reach the front of the 500-mile race
because of a practice accident that forced him into his backup car
and dropped him to the back of the pack.
"I'd hate to think I've got to screw up every week to win a
race," Stewart said.
Crew chief Darian Grubb's late-race strategy worked and Stewart
became the first owner/driver to win a points race since Ricky Rudd
at Martinsville in 1998.
Stewart made his last pit stop with 41 laps to go and figured he
could drive the rest of the way without another break. He took the
lead in the No. 14 Chevrolet with 37 laps remaining and roared to a
6-second lead over Carl Edwards that gave him a crucial buffer down
Edwards pushed Stewart and whittled the lead down to about 2
seconds with inside 10 laps remaining, and the two-time Cup
champion unsure of how much gas he had left in the tank.
"I didn't know how close we really were," Stewart said.
With a lead in the points standings and a spot in the Chase for
the championship all but assured, Stewart could afford to take a
Edwards was second, followed by David Reutimann and Jeff Gordon.
Stewart's SHR teammate Ryan Newman was fifth.
Edwards, still looking for his first win of 2009, was convinced
Stewart would run out of fuel. He was also sure Stewart would need
more time to become so dominant and lead the points standings like
he is only 14 races into the season.
Edwards was wrong on both counts.
"The things that he set out to accomplish this year were huge.
I personally didn't believe he could get it done," Edwards said.
"I'm extremely impressed with that. I can only imagine how good
that feels to get that done."
The first Cup points race with double-file restarts finished
without any confusion. The drivers meeting lasted nearly 30 minutes
as final questions were answered on the new restart rules that line
up the 43-car field following a yellow.
"I'm sure they'll refine it and make it better, but I think it
worked out pretty good," Reutimann said.
So has Stewart's decision to bolt JGR to buy a 50-percent stake
in his own team.
He's destroyed all expectations in his first season as owner and
driver. It was the first points victory since he left JGR at the
end of last year after 10 successful seasons and snapped a 19-race
points winless streak.
This was the first points victory for the team since their 2002
debut as Haas CNC Racing.
His second-place finish last week at Dover allowed him to become
the first driver/owner to lead the points since Alan Kulwicki won
the 1992 Cup championship, a span of 556 races.
Stewart stretched his lead over Gordon in the standings to 71
"There will be a banner hanging in the shop that marks this day
and time in history for the organization," Stewart said. "But you
can't sit on it too long."
When rain washed out qualifying on Friday, Stewart automatically
sat on the pole as the points leader. He called this season one big
dream and hoped he didn't wake up and realize it was time to get
ready to go to Daytona.
Stewart wrecked his car in practice Saturday, then took some of
the fastest laps of the day in his backup. He joked that if he knew
the backup would run that strong, he would have crashed the first
one right away.
Edwards is still looking for his first victory of the season.
"I'll probably be happy later today, but man, to be that close
to victory and not win, that was frustrating," he said. "The
points are great though. I'll definitely take something good out of
Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a tough second week with crew chief Lance
McGrew and was 27th. Jimmie Johnson ran out of fuel at the end and
"At the end, we were just playing the fuel game and I didn't
play it hard enough," Johnson said.
Reutimann, long a journeyman driver, jumped into 11th place in
the points standings. Mark Martin fell out of the top 12 with a
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.