With his fourth victory in the Chase and the 43rd of his career, Stewart put a dent in runner-up Carl Edwards’ series lead, scoring maximum points (48) to trim Edwards’ advantage from eight to three points with two races left in the season.
After winning last week at Martinsville, Stewart promised Edwards a sleepless three weeks during the stretch run for the title. On Sunday afternoon, Stewart let his car do the talking, taking the lead from Edwards on a Lap 275 restart and coming back to the front through a cycle of green-flag pit stops late in the race.
“I don’t think we have to say anything,” Stewart said in victory lane. “I think our performance today spoke for itself. He knows we’re there—trust me. … Carl kept us honest today. We got all the bonus points we could get and we got the win, so we gained more than we needed to gain on the average for the week.
“It doesn’t take much right now. It’s one spot, if a guy wins the race. We’re doing exactly what we need to do. I’m really confident right now.”
Stewart didn’t regain the lead until Lap 330 of 334, when Jeff Burton lost his fuel-mileage gamble and ran out of gas with just over four laps left.
Edwards, whose lone win this year came at Las Vegas in March, found consolation in retaining the points lead and in putting distance between himself and third-place Kevin Harvick (33 points back) and fourth-place Matt Kenseth (38 points back).
“Although we would have loved to have won today, to be three points ahead, and then to have the third- and fourth-place guys father behind, it looks like it’s truly going to come down to Tony and I, and that’s going to be a lot of fun,” Edwards said.
Kasey Kahne ran third, followed by Kenseth and Greg Biffle. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished sixth and seventh, respectively.
Stewart had led 142 laps by the time Joey Logano’s Toyota dropped oil on the backstretch on Lap 261, causing the fourth caution of the race. Edwards, Stewart and the five cars behind took right-side tires only on Lap 263.
Edwards got a huge jump on the restart on Lap 267 and pulled away to a lead of more than one second before NASCAR called the fifth caution on Lap 270 for debris in Turn 3. The first 13 cars stayed out under the yellow, and Stewart stayed with Edwards on a restart on Lap 275, moving around the No. 99 Ford to the outside.
“I think if I could have stayed in front of him, I’d have been able to get him,” Edwards said. “The restart before that, he spun his tires, and I felt really good about that one, (but) he timed it just right on that last restart and hung on my door.
“I give those guys credit. They’ve done a good job, but now we get to pull out all the stops here. We’ve been hanging on, we’re leading these points, we get to pull out all the stops these last two races, and there couldn’t be a better place to finish it than Homestead. I think folks ought to stay tuned. It’s going to get pretty exciting, and I’m just glad Tony and I are out there, and we can race for this thing.”
Notes: Subbing for Kyle Busch, who was parked by NASCAR for wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. under caution in Friday’s truck race at Texas, Michael McDowell finished 33rd, three laps down. … Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman were eliminated from title contention.