Sunday, October 30, 2011

Stewart Holds Off Johnson, Wins at Martinsville

Sporting News Wire Service

Tony Stewart wins his third race of the Chase (Getty)
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Tony Stewart passed Jimmie Johnson on a restart with three laps left in Sunday's Tums Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway and held off Johnson's desperate bid for the win on the final lap.

The victory was Stewart's third in the Chase for the Sprint Cup and vaulted him into second place in the standings, eight points behind leader Carl Edwards. Stewart won for the 42nd time in his career.

"He'd better be worried," Stewart said of Edwards after the race, "that's all I can say. He's not going to have an easy three weeks."

Miraculously, after twice being lapped on the race track, Edwards salvaged a decent run and retained his lead in the Chase standings with a ninth-place finish, as his two closest pursuers entering the race, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski, both experienced late trouble and finished 31st and 17th, respectively.

Jeff Gordon ran third, followed by Kevin Harvick, who climbed to third in the standings, 21 points behind Edwards. Denny Hamlin came home fifth, with Jeff Burton sixth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. seventh.

After a wild first half of the race had settled into a 97-lap green-flag run after the midpoint, Hamlin squeezed past Gordon on Lap 320 and stayed out front in traffic until Burton's spin caused the 10th caution of the race.

That started a spate of cautions that gave Harvick and Stewart a chance to move to the front with two-tire calls -- and allowed Edwards to return to the lead lap under the 12th caution with a free pass for the highest-scored car one lap down.

At the drivers' meeting before the race, NASCAR announced that any driver intentionally causing a caution by stopping on the race track will be penalized three laps. The rule is in effect for at least the rest of the season, though the number of laps could vary according to the size of the race track.

Martinsville Results

Martinsville Post-Race Notes
• Tony Stewart earned his 42nd career win in his 461st start. His third win of the season came, as the others have, in the Chase.
• This was Tony Stewart's third Martinsville victory, but his first since spring 2006.
• Tony Stewart led three times for 14 laps, including the final three laps after passing Jimmie Johnson on a restart.
• With nine Chase wins in his career, Tony Stewart is second to Jimmie Johnson (20).
• This was the 11th career victory for Stewart-Haas Racing; nine of those have come from Tony Stewart.
• Chevrolet earned its 48th victory at Martinsville, the most of any make.
• Jimmie Johnson (second) earned his 14th top-five finish at Martinsville; he's finished first or second nine times.
• Jeff Gordon (third) has finished in the top five in 13 of the past 14 races at Martinsville. He also became the fourth driver to lead more than 3,000 laps at Martinsville.
• Kevin Harvick (fourth) finished in the top five for the third consecutive race at Martinsville.
• Denny Hamlin (fifth) earned his first top-five in the 2011 Chase.
• Jeff Burton (sixth) followed a second-place run at Talladega with his third top-10 finish of 2011.
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. (seventh) finished in the top 10 in both Martinsville races in 2011.
• Martin Truex Jr. (eighth) picked up his 10th top-10 finish of 2011.
• Carl Edwards (ninth) picked up two free passes in the race; his worst finish in the 2011 Chase is 11th at Talladega.

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