Tony Stewart outlasted the field in Monday’s rain-delayed Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Saving fuel during a 50-lap green-flag run to the finish, Stewart, who started 26th, crossed the line 0.941 seconds ahead of hard-charging Kevin Harvick to win his first race of the season and the 40th of his career.
The win puts him equal 16th on the all0-time win list, equal with Mark Martin.
In the first Chase race of the year, the win moves Stewart up to second in the points, just seven points behind Harvick.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who saved enough fuel to get to the checkered flag, came home third, after other contenders like five-time defending Champion Jimmie Johnson ran out of fuel.
Carl Edwards finished fourth, ahead of Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch. The top six drivers in the field were all Chase contenders. Johnson finished 10th after NASCAR demoted pole-sitter Matt Kenseth – also out of gas – to 21st for getting a push from J.J. Yeley through Turns 3 and 4 on the final lap.
NASCAR rules prohibit one car from assisting another on the last lap.
Australian Marcos Ambrose survived the fuel race, finishing in 19th place.
The second race of the Chase is Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.