Stewart breaks drought in dramatic finish

Speedcafe.com

Monday 27th June, 2016 - 8:40am

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Stewart beats Hamlin to the line after their collision

Stewart beats Hamlin to the line after their collision

Tony Stewart ended an 84 race winless streak in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup after a last corner clash with Denny Hamlin at Sonoma.

Placed just 17th with little over 25 of the 110 laps left to run, Stewart’s team elected to make an extra green flag pitstop in the hope of benefitting from any subsequent yellows.

The veteran received exactly what he wanted almost immediately as debris in Turn 7 triggered a full course caution, which the remainder of the field used to also take new tyres.

That vaulted Stewart to the front, leading the otherwise dominant Toyotas of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr and Carl Edwards on the restart with 20 laps remaining.

Truex initially appeared Stewart’s main threat, passing Busch and Hamlin before eventually conceding the place back to the latter with eight to go.

Hamlin then closed down Stewart’s two second lead before tapping the Chevrolet wide at Turn 7 on the final lap and sprinting away through the esses to what appeared would be victory.

The reigning Daytona winner ran too deep into the final hairpin, however, allowing a fired up Stewart down the inside.

Side-to-side contact saw Stewart through and Hamlin pushed into the outside fence, from where he would limp across the line in second.

In a final career season that began on the sidelines due to injury, victory puts Stewart within two places of earning a spot in the Chase, which requires a win and a top 30 position in the standings.

“We could run close to those guys all day, we just got stuck back in traffic,” Stewart said in an emotion charged Victory Lane.

“I made mistakes the last two laps, I had a little bit much rear brake for Turn 7 and wheel-hopped two laps in a row.

“I felt a nudge (from Hamlin at Turn 7 on the last lap)… he did the right thing getting through but if I could get to him (at the last corner) he knew it was coming.

“He just told me (post-race) he was proud of me. He knows what it means. We respect each other a lot.”

Hamlin admitted to being preoccupied with thoughts of retaliation from Stewart heading into the final corner.

“(I was) looking in the rear view more than looking up front,” he said.

“I just slid up just a little in the middle (of Turn 11) and that allowed him to get a really good run.

“Once he had the inside position I knew we weren’t going to drag race He was going to put me in the wall.

“He’s doing what he has to do and we were doing what we had to in Turn 7. All’s fair in love and war.”

Team Penske Ford driver Joey Logano made late ground to take third ahead of pole-sitter Edwards, the fading Truex, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.

Edwards had led the race’s opening stages from pole and remained a front-runner until losing ground with a lengthy second pitstop.

Fellow front-row starter AJ Allmendinger also led laps during the day before a rolling wheel in his second stop triggered a penalty that led to a 14th place finish.

Kyle Larson’s charge was also dashed due to a pit infringement, coming home 12th after a drive-through for speeding in the lane.

Larson joined Kyle Busch and Hamlin in leaping to the front in the second round of stops having, like Stewart later on, pitted just before the yellows flew for debris on lap 46.

Hamlin had been running eighth prior to his lucky break and went on to lead a race high 33 laps.

Clint Bowyer was the source of the race’s only other caution, stopping on track with an electrical fire after just five laps.

See below for full results

1

Tony Stewart

Chevrolet

110

2:42:13

2

Denny Hamlin

Toyota

110

0.62

3

Joey Logano

Ford

110

22:17:47

4

Carl Edwards

Toyota

110

22:17:47

5

Martin Truex Jr.

Toyota

110

22:17:47

6

Kevin Harvick

Chevrolet

110

22:17:47

7

Kyle Busch

Toyota

110

22:17:47

8

Ryan Newman

Chevrolet

110

22:17:47

9

Kasey Kahne

Chevrolet

110

22:17:47

10

Kurt Busch

Chevrolet

110

22:17:47

11

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Chevrolet

110

22:17:47

12

Kyle Larson

Chevrolet

110

22:17:47

13

Jimmie Johnson

Chevrolet

110

22:17:47

14

A.J. Allmendinger

Chevrolet

110

22:17:47

15

Brad Keselowski

Ford

110

22:17:47

16

Paul Menard

Chevrolet

110

22:17:47

17

Jamie McMurray

Chevrolet

110

22:17:47

18

Greg Biffle

Ford

110

22:17:47

19

Danica Patrick

Chevrolet

110

22:17:47

20

Matt Kenseth

Toyota

110

22:17:47

21

Chase Elliott

Chevrolet

110

22:17:47

22

Austin Dillon

Chevrolet

110

22:17:47

23

Ryan Blaney

Ford

110

22:17:47

24

Casey Mears

Chevrolet

110

22:17:47

25

Trevor Bayne

Ford

110

22:17:47

26

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Ford

110

22:17:47

27

Aric Almirola

Ford

110

22:17:47

28

Regan Smith

Chevrolet

110

22:17:47

29

Landon Cassill

Ford

110

22:17:47

30

Chris Buescher

Ford

110

22:17:47

31

Matt DiBenedetto

Toyota

110

22:17:47

32

David Ragan

Toyota

110

22:17:47

33

Brian Scott

Ford

110

22:17:47

34

Cole Whitt

Toyota

110

22:17:47

35

Dylan Lupton

Toyota

110

22:17:47

36

Michael Annett

Chevrolet

109

1 Lap

37

Patrick Carpentier

Ford

108

2 Laps

38

Josh Wise

Chevrolet

97

Engine

39

Michael McDowell

Chevrolet

91

Rear Gear

40

Clint Bowyer

Chevrolet

5

Electrical

Points standings

1

Kevin Harvick

562

2

Kurt Busch

527

3

Carl Edwards

510

4

Brad Keselowski

506

5

Joey Logano

493

6

Chase Elliott

473

7

Jimmie Johnson

469

8

Martin Truex Jr.

469

9

Kyle Busch

452

10

Matt Kenseth

430

11

Denny Hamlin

421

12

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

413

13

Ryan Newman

402

14

Austin Dillon

400

15

Jamie McMurray

398

16

Kasey Kahne

385

17

Ryan Blaney

382

18

A.J. Allmendinger

365

19

Trevor Bayne

361

20

Kyle Larson

355

21

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

352

22

Paul Menard

315

23

Greg Biffle

290

24

Danica Patrick

288

25

Aric Almirola

278

26

Clint Bowyer

271

27

Landon Cassill

249

28

Casey Mears

238

29

David Ragan

217

30

Brian Scott

205

31

Regan Smith

199

32

Tony Stewart

196

33

Chris Buescher

193

34

Matt DiBenedetto

168

35

Michael McDowell

163

36

Cole Whitt

140

37

Michael Annett

129

38

Brian Vickers

86

39

Josh Wise

75

40

Jeffrey Earnhardt

48

41

Reed Sorenson

46

42

Michael Waltrip

42

43

Bobby Labonte

34

44

David Gilliland

24

45

Patrick Carpentier

4

46

Robert Richardson Jr.

3

VIDEO: Stewart and Hamlin battle it out

VIDEO: Stewart in Victory Lane

VIDEO: Rivals congratulate Stewart