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Stewart grabs late lead at Watkins Glen en route to third win of year

8/13/2007 - NASCAR

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Tony Stewart was more stunned than
anyone.

With just two laps remaining in Sunday's Centurion Boats at The
Glen at Watkins Glen International, Jeff Gordon had a two
car-length lead on Stewart. NASCAR's top two road racers were
preparing for a final clash.

It never happened. Gordon spun out on his own heading into the
first turn, Stewart zoomed past, held off a late charge from Carl Edwards, and won for the third time in four races.

"Trust me, I was probably the most shocked person," Stewart
said after his 36th career victory, tying him for 19th all-time
with Dale Jarrett. "Our only shot of getting by him was to keep
the pressure on him and hope he'd make a mistake.

"I think our car was a tick better than Jeff's, but if Jeff
doesn't make that mistake, we run for second," said Stewart, who
has won four of the last five Cup races at Watkins Glen and
finished second a year ago to Kevin Harvick. "You were going to
have to be a bunch faster to get by him. Whoever was in the lead
with 10 to go was probably going to win the race."

A dejected Gordon finished ninth.

"I was driving hard," he said. "I just overdrove going into
one. It was just stupid. I knew I had to push because Tony was
really good."

For Stewart, who spun out in the same place while leading
earlier in the race and dropped to 19th, it was his sixth win on a
road course, tying him for second behind Gordon's record nine.

"I saw Jeff lose it just like I lost it," Stewart said. "I
had to keep fighting back. Jeff has won four championships and 79
races. He's the last guy you expect to have a problem like that."

All but assured of a spot in the Chase for the Nextel Cup
championship, both Stewart and Edwards fought hard for the victory.
The top 12 drivers in the standings after 26 races will race for
the title and the points for every driver will be reset at 5,000,
but each win counts for an extra 10 points once the Chase begins.
Gordon and Jimmie Johnson lead the series with four wins, Stewart
has three and Edwards one.

Edwards made a desperate final try for another in the rapid
four-turn Inner Loop coming out of the high-speed esses.

"I just figured, the heck with it," said Edwards, who went off
course and finished eighth. "I just didn't want to finish
second."

Denny Hamlin ended up second, Jimmie Johnson was third, Canadian
road race ace Ron Fellows fourth and Robby Gordon fifth.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffered a big blow to his chances of making
the Chase with just four races remaining before the cutoff. After
complaining in practice about how bad his car was handling,
Earnhardt turned things around in the race and was running up front
much of the day. But while running third behind Gordon and Kurt
Busch, the engine in the red No. 8 Chevrolet blew, ending his day
on Lap 63. He finished 42nd.

It was the fifth DNF of the season for Earnhardt, four have been
engine-related. He entered the day trailing Busch by seven points
for the 12th and final spot in the Chase and dropped to 14th, four
points behind Ryan Newman and 100 points behind Busch, who rallied
to finish 11th after being penalized for speeding on pit road.

"I was hoping for a good showing and have something to be proud
of," Earnhardt said. "I'm kind of disappointed. We have a couple
of races left and there's no telling what will happen in those."

Rookie Juan Pablo Montoya, who won a Busch Series race in Mexico
and the Cup race at Sonoma in June, was bidding to become the first
driver in NASCAR history to win three road races in a season. He
failed in Saturday's Busch race, finishing 33rd after being
involved in an accident, and on Sunday he had another altercation.

Montoya and Harvick got together with less than 20 laps
remaining in the 90-lap event while both were running in the top
10, and ended up in a shoving match after their cars got banged up.
Harvick finished 36th and Montoya was 39th.

It was the second road race for the boxier Car of Tomorrow, and
there was plenty of action with eight cautions and even a red flag
flying.

Stewart and Gordon had the staunchest cars all race. Gordon led
the first 13 laps, then Stewart took over for the next 11 circuits
around the 11-turn, 2.45-mile course. But Stewart slid off track
going into Turn 1 on Lap 45, giving the lead back to Gordon.

Stewart immediately began to charge back and was back in the top
five by Lap 66.

Then the drama began to build. On a restart on Lap 67, Stewart
passed Montoya for fourth in Turn 1 and set his sights on Hamlin
and Edwards. Stewart went off course in the Inner Loop into the
grass, and Hamlin did the same as he fought off the charge and dirt
and dust flew.

Kyle Petty's engine blew seconds later to bring out the sixth
caution and the contact continued on the ensuing restart. Montoya
cut to the inside heading into the first turn, a 90-degree
right-hander, blocking Martin Truex Jr., who hit the Colombian
rookie's rear end, sending him into Harvick. Harvick and Montoya
both spun around, and Montoya was hit hard by Jeff Burton.

The race was red-flagged for 26 minutes with 15 laps to go
because there was too much debris on the track, and one fan tried
to get an autograph from Matt Kenseth by jumping the blue guardrail
that lines the course. Kenseth declined because he was a "little
busy" and the fan was immediately escorted from the track.