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Tony! And this Atlanta 500 was a doozy down the stretch: 3-wide for the lead?!

 Smoke smokes 'em in victory burnout after beating Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    By Mike Mulhern
    Tony Stewart finally got back in the win column Sunday night, after a long dry spell, dominating the grueling four-hour Atlanta 500 and slipping away from Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson over the final 30 miles.
   "Ring the bell, honey!" Stewart yelled as he crossed the line with his first win since Kansas City last fall, in front of a NASCAR-announced crowd of 93,200.
   "We couldn't hit a restart all night until right there at the end. The last pit stop gave us track position; when we got stuck back in traffic we were in trouble."
    "Tony had such a fast car at the end....but we're back, we had something that could win this race, so I'm excited about going into the chase," Edwards said.
   "We're better set to go race for this championship than we've ever been."
    Edwards, though still winless since November 2008, has been the hottest driver in NASCAR the past two months.   
    But championship contender Jimmie Johnson appears back on track too, finishing third, after a rough several weeks. "We've had some problems on the 1-1/2-mile and two-miles tracks, but we brought some things here that worked and we feel we're going down the right path," Johnson said. "It's a good confidence booster, to be in the thick of the race. To get a good race in here, feel the heat of the pressure, I was just so excited to be part of it."
    Down the stretch there was a lot of three-wide racing for the lead. "There are so many lanes you can run in here, you can find clean air," Johnson said. "I think we put on a good show. I wished that last caution hadn't come out....but then the three of us might have wound up in a big wad and someone else would have won."
    The top 10 in the standings have now officially clinched spots in the championship playoffs, which begin in two weeks at Loudon, N.H.
    The high drama points of the delightful 70-degree evening: Denny Hamlin losing an engine up halfway through the race, Greg Biffle crashing, and a late race tussle between Ryan Newman and Kasey Kahne, both fighting the lead trio for the win.
   Newman tagged Kahne in traffic, and Kahne slammed into Kurt Busch. Kahne made clear his displeasure; but Newman tried to explain to Kahne that he had been trying to bump-draft and give him a shot of speed.
    In a curious twist, billionaire investor Warren Buffett had a front row pit road seat for the race, atop Kyle Busch's pit box with team owner Joe Gibbs. But otherwise it wasn't a memorable evening for the Gibbs drivers. Joey Logano had electrical problems, Kyle drew a pit road penalty and had to rally back into the hunt. But it was Hamlin's engine problem that was the most serious.
   Hamlin had just talked Saturday morning about questions about the reliability of his equipment. Then after he won the pole Saturday afternoon Hamlin said he was extremely pleased with the speed in his car and his race setup. And Hamlin opened the night with the strongest car in the field.
    Hamlin, after winning the pole, said "For us the chase starts here."
    If so, his problems here don't bode well.
    For Edwards, on the other hand,
  "I've never run so poorly for so long....and now I've seen this turnaround, and now I believe in momentum," Edwards said. "We've proven to ourselves the last couple of months that we can do it.
    "We haven't led that many laps this year (only six up till this event). But this time we had a car better than we've had for a year, or a year and a half. To be in the mode of running for the win is really good for the team."
   The results of Sunday night's Atlanta Emory Healthcare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway


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  Tony Stewart is all smiles....for a change. Maybe Sunday's win will help his sponsorship battles (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

When the track is hot and

When the track is hot and slick, never count out Tony Stewart! And that track looks like its in need of a repave, but with one Cup race a year at AMS, would it be worth the cost?

goodyear has long been

goodyear has long been pushing for a repave at atlanta, after 13 years in the georgia sun. but drivers have resisted hard, because they like the three lanes they can work with, even if they have to give up tire wear. one question: how to do a repave so that the bottom lane is the only fast lane around the track? if they could figure out that, a repave would be nice. maybe variable banking? or is that just a gimmick that doesnt really work (i'm sure stp43 will weigh in here lol).

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