He's Baaaaaaack: Tony Stewart Wins in Kansas, First Top Five Since August

Kelly CrandallSenior Writer IOctober 4, 2009

KANSAS CITY, KS - OCTOBER 04:  Tony STewart, driver of the #14 Office Depot / Old Spice Chevrolet, celebrates with his crew in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Price Chopper 400 presented by Kraft Foods at the Kansas Speedway on October 4, 2009 in Kansas City, Kansas.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR)

The 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway is still a baby in the NASCAR world, only hosting eight Sprint Cup races since its 2001 inauguration.

Jeff Gordon won that day, as he did the next year, which brought Gordon back to Kansas on Sunday as the only repeat winner in its history.

Gordon and all the winners at Kansas have come from some fantastic finishes.

Last year, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards went down to the wire as Edwards tried dive-bombing into turn three, but hit the wall. Johnson went to victory lane.

In 2007, Greg Biffle was declared the winner because of darkness, but controversy arose when he was beaten to the finish line. Drivers claimed he didn’t maintain pace car speed and that he ran out of gas.

The year before that, 2006, Tony Stewart did cross the finish line on fumes. He and his then No. 20 Home Depot team made the fuel mileage work and took home the victory.

And in 2004, Joe Nemechek and Ricky Rudd battled for the finish line in the closing laps. They came to the checkered flag side-by-side with Nemechek taking the trophy and his fourth career win.

Nemechek also completed the Kansas sweep. A day before, he beat Greg Biffle in a side-by-side finish in the Nationwide Series race.

Kansas was back in action on Sunday with the third race of the 2009 Chase. After dominating Dover, Jimmie Johnson came to Kansas 10 points behind teammate and points leader Mark Martin.

But, the pair arrived in Kansas on the lips of many and not for a good reason. NASCAR warned their teams that their Dover cars, which had been inspected at the NASCAR Research and Development Center during the week, were “too close” to the tolerance level.

No penalties were handed out and NASCAR assured everyone that the cars were legal. But many other teams in the garage still weren’t satisfied and one crew chief that spoke anonymously said that if he were his team involved, he would be sitting at home for six weeks.

Martin then went out and won the pole on Friday and Johnson qualified 11th for the Price Chopper 400.

Hendrick Motorsports drivers took the top three spots in qualifying: Dale Earnhardt Jr. was second and Brad Keselowski, running a part-time schedule, posted the third fastest time.

However, all eyes would be on the Chasers and how their day would progress.

Tony Stewart, fifth in points, qualified fifth. Kasey Kahne, 12th in points, started behind Stewart in sixth, Jeff Gordon, the sixth-place points Chaser, clocked in the ninth fastest time.

Brain Vickers, 10th in points, was 12th fastest. Juan Pablo Montoya, third in points, would start 14th, and Carl Edwards would try to improve his 11th-place point position from the 17th spot on the grid.

The lowest four qualifiers were Denny Hamlin (sixth in points), Ryan Newman (seventh in points), Greg Biffle (ninth in points), and Kurt Busch (fourth in points). They would have to battle their way from the 22nd, 30th, 31st, and 39th positions, respectively.

After braving the chilly morning, 43 drivers climbed aboard their machines and Martin led them to the green flag just after 2 p.m.

Joey Logano, after taking a wild ride last weekend in Dover, brought out the first caution on lap 2 after telling the crew that he got loose and spun off turn two. He would have to come to pit road for four new tires.

The restart took place on lap six with Martin continuing to lead as Earnhardt Jr. and Jamie McMurry battled for second spot.

Earnhardt Jr. held the position; McMurray went to third as another accident took place on lap seven.

Bobby Labonte, Paul Menard, David Ragan, Max Papis, and Michael Waltrip all got together coming off turn two.

Once pit road opened up, all the drivers that had been behind the accident and drove through the debris came down pit road to get four new tires. Drivers included Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Sam Hornish Jr., Elliott Sadler, Brian Vickers, and Eric Darnell.

Martin led Earnhardt Jr., McMurray, Keselowski, Tony Stewart, and Kasey Kahne the top five.

Earnhardt Jr. and Martin battled side-by-side for the lead until Earnhardt Jr. took it at the start-finish line.

Keselowski passed Martin for second, as David Ragan was black-flagged because his No. 6 car was smoking on the track.

Back in the pack, Kurt Busch was trying to dig out of his 39th starting spot and after missing the two wrecks on the backstretch, he ran 23rd on lap 21 of 267 on the day.

Jimmie Johnson was also making moves, battling Kasey Kahne for the ninth spot before finally taking it.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Jeff Gordon got together before Montoya went by, Gordon telling his crew that he had practically no grip. But up front, Earnhardt Jr. started pulling away with the lead by two seconds from teammate Brad Keselowski after 27 laps.

Stewart took a position away from Martin on lap 35 to round out the top five. Earnhardt Jr. led, Keselowski rode second, McMurray third, Johnson fourth and then Stewart. McMurray was soon passed by both Johnson and Stewart and fell into the clutches of Martin.

David Reutimann rode in the seventh position, Kahne eighth, Juan Pablo Montoya in ninth and Jeff Gordon held the tenth spot.

As for the Chasers, Carl Edwards ran in the 12th spot, Denny Hamlin behind him in 13th, Greg Biffle ran 17th, Ryan Newman and Busch were 20th and 21st and Brian Vickers ran in the 32nd spot after 42 laps.

Green flag pit stops were expected to start shortly as Earnhardt Jr. crossed the line to mark off lap 50 as Johnson closed in on Keselowski for the second spot.

But Johnson lost the third spot to Tony Stewart as Keselowski brought his No. 25 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet to pit road for his first stop. Next came Newman and Johnson, Reutimann, Clint Bowyer, and leader Earnhardt Jr.

Montoya, McMurray, Gordon, and Stewart were all next on lap 55 and Hamlin, the Busch brothers, AJ Allmendinger a lap later. Logano pitted on lap 57 as did Carl Edwards who stayed to lead a lap.

However, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was black flagged after his left rear tire changer left a lug nut loose and he had to give up his track position and come back down pit road.

Edwards was then penalized for speeding on pit road and had to do a pass through penalty; he too lost his track position. At the same time, Elliott Sadler, who had been leading, came down pit road for his pit stop.

That put Keselowski and Johnson in the top two spots; Johnson took the lead on lap 63 and set his sights on lapping Brian Vickers.

After all pit stops had been completed, Johnson led Keselowski, Stewart, Kahne, Martin, Kenseth, Reutimann, Montoya, Gordon, and McMurray as the top ten.

Caution came out on lap 70 after Reed Sorenson tagged the wall in turn two. Elliott Sadler would be the recipient of the Lucky Dog award and get his lap back.

All the leaders came back down pit road on this caution. Greg Biffle beat Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Keselowski and Stewart off pit road.

Johnson came out sixth, then Martin, Kenseth, Kahne, and David Reutimann in 10th. Ryan Newman was caught speeding off pit road.

Biffle led them to the lap 75 restart.

Earnhardt Jr. and Edwards, who had been penalized, were now both one lap down back in 34th and 35th spots, and they would have to battle it out to be the first car a lap down in case the caution came out.

On lap 88, Johnson caught Greg Biffle for the lead and the two would battle side-by-side for a couple of laps. Biffle was able to hold Johnson off as they reached the 100-lap mark.

Johnson finally got the lead on lap 104 after Biffle got caught behind Max Papis whom he was trying to lap.

After 120 laps and another round of pit stops approaching, Johnson led, Biffle second, Stewart, Montoya, Kenseth, Keselowski, Gordon, Martin, Reutimann, and Hamlin completed the top ten.

Keselowski hit pit road on lap 124 getting only an air pressure adjustment. The caution came out on lap 126 when Brian Vickers went for a spin. Kevin Harvick would get the Lucky Dog as the rest of the leaders hit pit road.

Johnson beat Montoya, Gordon, Stewart, Hamlin, Martin, Reutimann, Kyle Busch, Kahne, and Casey Mears. But Greg Biffle pitted under the green flag and would be ahead of them all.

Sam Hornish Jr. was penalized for speeding on pit road.

Biffle led them to the green flag on lap 130 with Johnson to his outside. Johnson took the lead coming off turn four, Biffle went to second, and Montoya battled Jeff Gordon for the third spot as Denny Hamlin looked on.

Montoya took the spot and on lap 136, Matt Kenseth came to pit road after telling his crew that he felt the engine was about to blow up. The No. 17 car was then pushed to the garage area.

Montoya took the second position from Biffle on lap 141 as Tony Stewart tried to take the fourth spot from Jeff Gordon.

The caution came out for the fifth time when Elliott Sadler spun around in turn two on lap 148 and Carl Edwards would get the Lucky Dog award and be back on the lead lap. Edwards was running in the 24th spot.

All the leaders hit pit road again. Gordon got would take two tires, Johnson took four, Montoya got four tires and an air pressure adjustment. Tony Stewart took two tires are well.

Biffle won the pit road race over Stewart, Martin, Hamlin, Gordon, Reutimann, Marcos Ambrose, Mears, Johnson, and Montoya. The restart saw Biffle leading them on lap 152.

Biffle pulled away on the restart over Stewart as Martin and Hamlin ran side-by-side for the third spot. Hamlin took the spot as Martin lost another position to Gordon.

Then came Reutimann, Casey Mears and Juan Pablo Montoya who was using the middle lane on the track and gaining ground.

Stewart began to close in on Biffle for the lead on lap 158 and would be on his bumper as they crossed the line to complete another lap. The two would battle door-to-door until lap 170, when Biffle would pull away again.

Biffle put Vickers two laps down on lap 178 and Vickers radioed in that he feels that his engine was missing. The No. 83 crew now worried it might blow up. Vickers did bring his car to pit road shortly thereafter for the crew to look over.

Vickers did return to the track but still said that his car did not sound right.

Greg Biffle and Jimmie Johnson hit pit road on lap 204, both getting four tires. Gordon came down as well and got an air pressure adjustment. Reutimann got a wedge adjustment and four tires. Mark Martin also hit pit road, on lap 205, and got four tires.

Edwards then came down to his crew for adjustments and tires, as did Kasey Kahne. After leading a few laps, Tony Stewart hit pit road and got four tires and fuel as Montoya hit his stall and got four tires and fuel with a few adjustments.

Denny Hamlin came down for four tires; teammate Kyle Busch did the same with some adjustments and his big brother Kurt then hit pit road. Busch got four tires and said they would go to the end of the race on fuel.

Jamie McMurray was penalized for a missing lugnut and had to come back down pit road.

Biffle cycled through as the leader with 50 laps to go, but many speculated that he would be one of the cars that could not make it on fuel and would have to pit again.

Montoya was told by his crew chief that once he was out and riding by himself that he should try to save fuel to attempt to make it to the end.

The caution flew with 30 laps to go after Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car started leaking oil; he went to the garage and was done for the day.

The leaders then hit pit road, Gordon for four tires, Biffle got four, Hamlin got four and air pressure adjustment, Johnson got two, Stewart go two, Kahne got two tires.

Stewart won the race off pit road over Kahne, Johnson, Biffle, Hamlin, Gordon, Martin, Montoya, Kurt Busch, and Brad Keselowski was 10th.

Stewart would lead them to the restart with 27 laps to go.

He then pulled away as Biffle went to second, Kahne to third, then Gordon and Johnson battled side-by-side. Johnson would get loose in turn one and lost the position to both Gordon and Montoya.

Then Hamlin went by Johnson with 24 laps to go. Kurt Busch got loose in turn four and scraped the wall as Gordon went pasted Kahne for third and Montoya attempted to follow him through.

Jeff Gordon got around Greg Biffle for second with 13 laps to go and would have to hunt down Tony Stewart for the lead. With five laps to go, Stewart still led Gordon, but by only half a second as his crew chief coached him on.

It wouldn’t be enough, as Tony Stewart won his fourth race of the year and his second career at Kansas. It was Stewart’s first top five finish since his last win, which was in August at Watkins Glen.

Jeff Gordon finished second, Greg Biffle third, Juan Pablo Montoya fourth, Denny Hamlin fifth, Kasey Kahne sixth, Mark Martin seventh, David Reutimann eighth, Jimmie Johnson ninth and Carl Edwards 10th.

As for the point standings, Mark Martin held the points lead over Jimmie Johnson (-18), Juan Pablo Montoya (-51), Tony Stewart (-67), Kurt Busch (-91), Denny Hamlin (-99), Jeff Gordon (-103), Greg Biffle (-114), Ryan Newman (-164), Carl Edwards (-165), Kasey Kahne (-190), and Brian Vickers (-250).


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