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Stewart Wins: It’s A Case Of Smoke And Tires At Kansas

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, October 5 2009
Tony Stewart takes the checkered flag during Sunday's Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway. (RacinToday photo by Tony Bush)

Tony Stewart takes the checkered flag during Sunday's Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway. (RacinToday photo by Tony Bush)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Kansas City, Kan. – Tony Stewart did not need to be reminded during the week leading up to Sunday’s Sprint Cup race Kansas Speedway that he and his team were in a bit of a slump. Plain and simple, he wasn’t crazy about being reminded that he’d had just one top-10 finish in his last six Sprint Cup races and that his Chase hopes were fading.

This coming week, however, Stewart won’t have to be issued those kind of reminders because the late-season fade is finito.

Stewart held off Jeff Gordon over the final dozen laps to win the Price Chopper 400 presented by Kraft Foods Sunday afternoon.

The victory was the first for Stewart since the race at the Watkins Glen road course almost two months ago.

The victory also moved Stewart from fifth to fourth in points and moved him 39 closer to leader Mark Martin, who he trails by 67 points heading to next weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

“We’ve still got a shot,” Stewart said of a third championship. “We’ve got a great shot at this still.”

Martin finished seventh and extended his points lead over Jimmie Johnson, who finished ninth, to 18 points – that is an increase of eight points.

Gordon moved up one spot to seventh in points.

Stewart’s victory was his fourth of the season and his second at Kansas Speedway.

It came by .894 seconds over Gordon, who appeared to perhaps have enough car to catch Stewart late in the race.

“We were better than Tony, but not enough,” Gordon said.

True, Stewart said. Even though Gordon was able to close the gap a couple of times over the last laps, Stewart never felt threatened.

“We ran just hard enough to not abuse the tires,” Stewart said.

Greg Biffle finished third after leading a race-high 113 laps. It was his first podium finish since he was third at Dover in late May.

For most of the second half of the race, it appeared as though Biffle would get his first victory of the season. Out front after taking just tires on a pits stop on lap 147 of the 267-lap race, he was able to move out to big leads.

But a decision to take four tires on the final pit stop, which came with 25 laps to go, sent him to fourth place on the restart. He quickly moved to second place but yield that to Gordon with 13 laps to go.

The decision to take four was his as he over-ruled crew chief Greg Erwin, who wanted to just take two.

On orders from crew chief Darian Grubb, Stewart took just two tires and that turned out to be the winning decision.

“He’s like that,” Stewart, a two-time Sprint Cup champion, said of Grubb. “He’s a little gutsy. That’s a good thing. Darian, you don’t question him. When he makes a call, you know it’s the right thing to do and you go from there.”

Finishing third was Juan Pablo Montoya. His finished allowed him to trim 14 points from Martin’s lead over him and kept him third in points.

(This story will be updated soon)

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, October 5 2009
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