The green flag drops to begin the 2010 chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, and before the second lap is complete Tony Stewart already has the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet in the lead. By lap No. 8 he has a one second advantage over the rest of the field.
As the race progresses, Scott Speed brings out the first caution of the day on lap 26 and Stewart loses the lead when Richard Childress Racing driver Clint Bowyer beats him out of the pits after taking only two tires.
Stewart would eventually retake the lead on lap 212 and hold it until lap 237 when Earnhardt Ganassi driver Jamie McMurray would go around him for the lead.
With chase favorite Jimmie Johnson having his share of problems, this would be the perfect time for Stewart to flex the type of muscle he has been known for throughout his hard charging, highly talented racing career.
Stewart is no stranger to leading races, and so far during his 12 seasons in NASCAR’s premier series he has led 11,083 laps while picking up two championships with his former team, Joe Gibbs Racing, along the way.
Stewart entered the chase seeded sixth, only 50 points behind series leader Denny Hamlin after getting his first win of the 2010 season three weeks ago in Atlanta.
Stewart, who knows how to get the job done, hasn’t been as strong as his electrifying first year; nevertheless, he still remains a fan favorite along with being one of the favorites to win this season’s chase.
With destiny on his side, Stewart was only two laps away from going to victory lane and moving up to second in the point standings only 30 points away from series leader Denny Hamlin.
Instead, fate took over and dealt him a losing hand when Stewart ran short on fuel and finished a disappointing 24th, dropping him to 10th place in the standings and 124 points away from the leader Hamlin.
Stewart said after the race that, "I'm not happy, that's for sure, but we went down swinging."
Stewart also added that, "It's hard to lose one that way, but at the same time it was fun racing Clint like that. He was definitely the fastest car, and congratulations to those guys.”
You could see the disappointment in his eyes during the post race interview. He was asked if he could go back and make the decision again what he would do:
“I would have settled for second. If you knew exactly how much gas you have it would be different, but you never know,” said Stewart.
“It’s part of the sport, always has been. It's what makes it exciting when you never know until the last lap what's going to happen.”
“It's a tough way to start the Chase but I'm proud of my guys. Darian kept swinging at it all day and finally on that last set of tires we got it halfway decent.”
With Dover coming up this weekend, and this being one of his stronger tracks (two wins, 10 top-five, and 15 top-10 finishes in 23 starts), Stewart continues to be optimistic about his chances at winning his third NASCAR series championship.
“There is so much that can happen in nine races, and I promise you this: this Old Spice/Office Depot Chevy team is not going to give up. We'll do the best we can and give it our best shot."
With the chase just getting underway and the first race already in the books, Tony Stewart remains the only the driver active or inactive who can hold his own piece of history as the only driver to own a championship with all three of NASCAR’s primary sponsors (Winston-2002, Nextel-2005, Sprint-?).