Tony Stewart claimed back-to-back wins for the second time in this year's Chase, winning his fourth race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season at Texas Motor Speedway.
The Stewart Haas driver continued to close on the series points lead after beating Chase leader Carl Edwards with a categorical win, taking home a perfect score that now places him only three points behind his Roush Fenway rival.
Stewart led 173 out of the scheduled 334 laps, jumping to the front seven different times. His most emphatic move over his main title rival came on the final restart, following the fifth caution of the day for debris on the track, with Stewart beating Edwards to the lead as the green flag waved for the last time.
With one more stop pending for fuel for the leaders after that, strategies came into play as some gambled on making it to the end without an extra stop. However, none of those taking the risk succeeded, Richard Childress Racing's Jeff Burton leading until running dry four laps from the end.
While Stewart took the lead back, Edwards struggled with slower traffic as he tried to Chase down the No. 14 Chevrolet. The two-time Cup champion went on to win by over a second, claiming his second career win at Texas, and matching Jimmie Johnson for the most wins during a Chase with his fourth playoff series victory.
"I told you guys that last week, nobody listens to me when I talk anymore..." said Stewart. "We are set on it, man – this is just the way it is going to be. Do not count us out of this thing. I can tell you that we did everything we could do today."
Edwards, who led the race briefly for 14 laps, suffered with a blistering right front early on but was able to manage tire wear later in the race, remaining a contender for victory throughout. Despite his defeat, as the championship turns into a two-horse race, he remains positive ahead of the final two races as he continues to lead the standings.
"On that last restart, I think if I could have stayed in front of him, I'd have been able to get him," said Edwards. "I give those guys credit, they've done a good job, but now we get to kind of pull out all the stops here. Our team, we've been hanging on. We're leading these points."
Red Bull's Kasey Kahne carried on his impressive Chase form with third in the end, looking particularly strong in the penultimate stint of the race as most of the leaders pitted for right-side tires while he went for a full set, giving up track position but coming back to contend for the lead.
Roush Fenway's Matt Kenseth was fourth after leading most of the first half of the race, his teammate Greg Biffle fifth behind him and Hendrick Motorsports' Jeff Gordon recovered from a poor qualifying to run among the top 10 for most of the day, finishing sixth in the end.
His teammate Johnson was also a top-five contender at some points but spun at the exit of Turn 4 on lap 241, causing the caution to wave for the third time in the afternoon, then recovered to finish 14th but lost further ground in the Chase.
RCR's Kevin Harvick took on two new tires on his final stop and briefly jumped ahead of Stewart and Edwards but his gamble backfired as he lost pace and struggled to a 13th-place finish that puts him now 33 points behind the Chase leader.
Results - 334 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Tony Stewart Stewart Haas Chevrolet 3h16m51.000s
2. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 1.092s
3. Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota + 6.053s
4. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford + 6.369s
5. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 6.920s
6. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 11.046s
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 11.525s
8. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 12.826s
9. Clint Bowyer Childress Chevrolet + 14.984s
10. AJ Allmendinger Petty Ford + 17.392s
11. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 17.786s
12. David Ragan Roush Fenway Ford + 20.684s
13. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet + 21.070s
14. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet + 21.285s
15. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 23.776s
16. Ryan Newman Stewart Haas Chevrolet + 24.416s
17. Trevor Bayne Wood Brothers Ford + 27.457s
18. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 29.298s
19. Mark Martin Hendrick Chevrolet + 30.176s
20. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota + 1 lap
21. Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota + 1 lap
22. David Reutimann Waltrip Toyota + 1 lap
23. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet + 1 lap
24. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge + 1 lap
25. Casey Mears Germain Toyota + 1 lap
26. Landon Cassill Phoenix Chevrolet + 2 laps
27. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 2 laps
28. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 2 laps
29. Andy Lally TRG Chevrolet + 2 laps
30. Kurt Busch Penske Dodge + 3 laps
31. Travis Kvapil Front Row Ford + 3 laps
32. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 3 laps
33. Michael McDowell Gibbs Toyota + 3 laps
34. Mike Bliss FAS Lane Ford + 5 laps
35. Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet + 18 laps
36. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 39 laps
Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota 258 laps
Geoffrey Bodine Baldwin Chevrolet 215 laps
Scott Speed Whitney Ford 30 laps
Josh Wise HP Toyota 23 laps
Mike Skinner Max Q Ford 19 laps
Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 14 laps
JJ Yeley Front Row Ford 10 laps