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Tony Stewart wins first race of NASCAR's Chase

September 19, 2011 |  1:25 pm

Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick
Tony Stewart won for the first time this season -- and in the process sprung into contention for the Sprint Cup championship.

Stewart stretched his final tank of fuel to the finish of the opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship at Chicagoland Speedway to win for the first time in 32 races. He bolted from ninth to second in the standings, only seven points behind leader Kevin Harvick.

Harvick, who started the race tied with Kyle Busch for the points lead, also benefited from not worrying about fuel on the final lap. Several others weren't so fortunate. Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth were among the drivers who ran out of gas on the final lap.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. took advantage of the situation and finished third, moving from 10th to fifth in the standings.


Dale Earnhardt Jr. glad to be back in the Chase

Ten years ago, Irwindale Speedway initiated a moment of post-9/11 healing

-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Photo: Kevin Harvick, left, congratulates Tony Stewart in Victory Lane. Credit: Geoff Burke / Getty Images for NASCAR