Tony Stewart scored his second straight win to open the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup at New Hampshire Motor Speedway's Sylvania 300.
Stewart, who in last year's fall race at New Hampshire ran out of fuel while leading on the last lap, had the situation reverse itself in 2011 with the same contender.
Clint Bowyer took advantage that day but while Bowyer was en route to his first win of the 2011 season, his gamble to win on fuel mileage fell short.
Stewart passed him with two laps remaining and suddenly the driver who barely made the Chase finds himself leading it after a perfect start to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series playoffs.
“I know exactly what that feels like and how he feels right now,” Stewart said. “I saw him slow down and thought ‘Oh no, you're kidding me.' That's not the way you want to win it. I feel bad for him, and it was fun racing him. Our only chance was to catch him in lapped traffic. It's hard to lose them that way. The last two weeks we've been good on fuel mileage, which shows how good Mobil 1 is.”
Stewart completed the season sweep of the track for Stewart Haas Racing in the first win of the year with him having Mobil 1 as his primary sponsor rather than Office Depot.
Bowyer, whose future in the series is likely to include a departure from Richard Childress Racing by the end of the season, wound up an unrepresentative 26th just two laps shy of the win.
Brad Keselowski continued his recent surge with a runner-up finish to jump up three positions to third in the standings for Penske Racing.
“We made some good adjustments with about 120-130 laps to go,” he said. “We use the fuel stuff, but we were a legitimate top 10 car. We took a track we were weak at and made it count this time around.”
Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon and Brian Vickers completed the top five finishers. Gordon led the most laps and made the biggest leap from Chicagoland on Monday, from 11th to fifth in points.
“We're making great horsepower, but we're not getting great fuel mileage!” Gordon admitted. “We both have to do a better job of it.”
A trio of Roush Fenway pilots, Matt Kenseth, David Ragan and Carl Edwards were next followed by Juan Pablo Montoya and Regan Smith in the top ten.
A fraught afternoon for Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch – Johnson having a run of contact with either Busch brother of late – ended with those two in 18th and 11th respectively, and with a large gap to claw back in the standings.
Stewart leads Kevin Harvick, who finished 12th, by seven points. Keselowski stands 11 back ahead of Edwards (-14) and Gordon (-23). Busch, Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are all 26 points in arrears ahead of Kurt Busch (-28), Johnson (-29), Ryan Newman (-34) and Denny Hamlin (-66).
Results - 300 laps:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Tony Stewart Stewart Haas Chevrolet 2h43m13.000s
2. Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge + 7.225s
3. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Ford + 12.045s
4. Jeff Gordon Hendrick Chevrolet + 12.298s
5. Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota + 12.909s
6. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Ford + 14.073s
7. David Ragan Roush Fenway Ford + 15.340s
8. Carl Edwards Roush Fenway Ford + 19.076s
9. Juan Pablo Montoya Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 23.902s
10. Regan Smith Furniture Row Chevrolet + 23.963s
11. Kyle Busch Gibbs Toyota + 24.786s
12. Kevin Harvick Childress Chevrolet + 26.986s
13. Jeff Burton Childress Chevrolet + 27.342s
14. Joey Logano Gibbs Toyota + 27.573s
15. Kasey Kahne Red Bull Toyota + 27.773s
16. Martin Truex Jr Waltrip Toyota + 28.178s
17. Dale Earnhardt Jr Hendrick Chevrolet + 28.749s
18. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Chevrolet + 28.793s
19. Bobby Labonte JTG Daugherty Toyota + 1 lap
20. Paul Menard Childress Chevrolet + 1 lap
21. AJ Allmendinger Petty Ford + 1 lap
22. Kurt Busch Penske Dodge + 1 lap
23. Jamie McMurray Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet + 1 lap
24. Mark Martin Hendrick Chevrolet + 1 lap
25. Ryan Newman Stewart Haas Chevrolet + 1 lap
26. Clint Bowyer Childress Chevrolet + 2 laps
27. JJ Yeley Front Row Ford + 2 laps
28. David Reutimann Waltrip Toyota + 2 laps
29. Denny Hamlin Gibbs Toyota + 2 laps
30. Marcos Ambrose Petty Ford + 3 laps
31. Mike Bliss FAS Lane Ford + 4 laps
32. David Gilliland Front Row Ford + 4 laps
33. Landon Cassill Phoenix Chevrolet + 6 laps
34. Andy Lally TRG Chevrolet + 16 laps
Dave Blaney Baldwin Chevrolet 80 laps
Joe Nemechek NEMCO Toyota 38 laps
Michael McDowell HP Toyota 35 laps
David Stremme Inception Chevrolet 32 laps
Josh Wise Max Q Ford 29 laps
Robby Gordon Gordon Dodge 28 laps
Scott Speed Whitney Ford 23 laps
Casey Mears Germain Toyota 19 laps
Travis Kvapil Front Row Ford 10 laps