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Tony Stewart! Yes, owner-drivers can win in NASCAR, and Stewart gets his first, in the $1 million All-star

Tony Stewart, getting his first win as owner-driver, in the NASCAR All-star sprint (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern



   Tony Stewart played it patiently on a raucous All-star Saturday night, as top challengers like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch crashed, and Stewart, one of the sport's newest owner-drivers, scored a breakthrough victory for his new team in the $1 million Sprint Cup challenge at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
   "It's awesome…I've just got to thank our fans," Stewart said after passing Matt Kenseth for the lead with two laps to go. "This is for Gene Haas and Joe Custer. Gene is with us now, and he's not going to miss a race. Gene and Joe gave us this opportunity (by selling the team to him at the end of last season). And we couldn't do this without Rick Hendrick (who provides engines and engineering).
   "And if Ryan (Newman, Stewart's teammate) hadn't cut a tire down, he would have been here instead of us."
    While Stewart won the race – it was almost as the last man standing – Kyle Busch put on the show, coming from the back to the lead, and banging fenders with rivals and making daring moves lap after lap, in front of a crowd that NASCAR pegged at 145,000.
   However Busch's most dramatic bob-and-weave proved costly: early in the 10-lap final dash for the $1 million, Busch held the middle, between Jeff Gordon on the inside and Newman on the outside, and the three ran out of room on the frontstretch and crashed.
    Busch was moving to take the lead from Gordon at that point, while Newman was making his own charge on the outside. Gordon moved up a little, apparently not realizing they were three-wide.
   "I heard 'three-wide' at the last moment," Gordon said, referring to word from his spotter.
  It was too late. The three banged doors, Gordon spun and then hit the outside wall hard, coming to rest in the middle of the track, with the driver's door facing traffic.

   Fortunately no one hit Gordon.


Tony Stewart is proving this season he is not only one of NASCAR's top drivers but now one of the sport's top owners (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   The first 50-lap segment of the four-leg event went without incident, Johnson dominating, leading all 50, even through the mandatory green flag pit stop on lap 25.
   However, during the brief break between the 50-lapper and the second leg, when all drivers pitted again for fresh rubber, Kyle Busch took only two tires and gained the lead for the restart. Kenseth made the same gamble, for track position behind Busch. And the two ran 1-2 through that 20-lapper, which also went without incident.
   At the ensuing break, Busch and Kenseth skipped pit stops while most behind them did stop.
   Early in leg three, another 20-lapper, Johnson slapped the wall, then Greg Biffle and Sam Hornish, winner of the night's opening sprint to make the field for the feature, crashed moments later. Midway through that leg Gordon charged up to challenge Busch for the lead….and Gordon took the lead, winning that leg.
    So for the final 10-lap $1million shootout, it was Gordon, Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson 1-2-3-4-5.
   But on the break Kyle Busch made a bold move, while Johnson spun out behind them, bringing out a yellow and forcing a complete restart. (NASCAR has some odd rules for this particular event.)
   And on the next break Busch made a brilliant move toward the lead – setting up the battle that led to the night's controversial crash on the second lap of the 10.
    Ironically, under the race rules that the restart order, after a yellow, will revert to the scoring at the finish line the last green flag lap, Kyle Busch and Newman were 1-2 for the restart, as Gordon's car was hauled back to the garage. However Newman's fenders were too banged up, and he quickly faded. And Busch's car too was too dinged to remain a contender.
   That left the race to Kenseth versus Stewart, and Stewart, after getting clean air, pulled away to win by several car lengths.


Now THAT'S a victory scream (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)





I wouldn't play up the

I wouldn't play up the "owner" part of this too much. He was handed ownership in an existing team which is now widely considered the 5th Hendrick team. It's not like he built this organization from the ground up.

Well, yes, Tony did get a big

Well, yes, Tony did get a big break when GM helped back the 'buy-in,' but still Tony is the guy running the operation....which has been a Hendrick satellite team for years.....And Tony has brought in some good guys to run things, like Bobby Hutchens....

The owner SHOULD get a good

The owner SHOULD get a good deal of credit because if you don't have the right people to run the place, all the equipment and the money in the world doesn't matter. There are four Hendrick cars at Hendrick Motorsports and not all of them have been successful at the same time. THAT is a people issue.

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