published Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Stewart wins NASCAR race at New Hampshire

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LOUDON, N.H. — Tony Stewart made it 2 for 2 in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, pulling ahead when Clint Bowyer ran out of gas with two laps left to win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Stewart is on a roll when the season matters most, following last week’s Chase opening victory at Chicagoland Speedway with another strong performance at New Hampshire. Both of his victories this season have come in the Chase and have propelled him to the top of the points standings.

The outcome was a complete reversal of the race at New Hampshire last fall, when Stewart’s tank ran dry a lap from the checkered flag and Bowyer pounced for the victory.

“If that’s not a flip-flop from last year, I don’t know what is,” Stewart said over the radio as he neared the finish line.

Four other Chase drivers finished in the top 10. Brad Keselowski was second, Jeff Gordon was fourth, Matt Kenseth was sixth and Carl Edwards finished eighth. Gordon rocketed from 11th to sixth in the standings and is in the hunt for his fifth championship.

Stewart, a two-time Cup champion, is the second driver to ever open the Chase with consecutive victories. He overtook Kevin Harvick for the points lead and made himself the car to beat after a rather pedestrian regular season. Even Stewart counted himself out him before the Chase, declaring he would call himself, “a total bumbling idiot,” if he won the championship. He might win his third title — but don’t expect Smoke to call himself a favorite.

“Got eight long weeks still, man,” Stewart said. “It’s way too early to start counting chickens.”

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