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CUP: Stewart Slashes Way To Second At BMS

Two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart gambled on a two-tire stop late in Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, gaining valuable track position to finish second behind Jimmie Johnson.

LINK >RESULTS: Food City 500 - BRISTOL

Kurt Busch was leading the race when the final caution waved on the 484th of 500 laps around the high-banked, 0.533-mile BMS oval. Busch and Johnson took four tires, while Stewart and three Roush Fenway Racing drivers took two each.

On the restart on Lap 491, Matt Kenseth led his teammates Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, with Stewart fourth, followed by Busch and Johnson. Stewart restarted in the outside lane, which is the faster of the two at Bristol. He was able to get past all three of the Roush Fenway Fords to put his Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet into the lead on Lap 493.

Unfortunately for Stewart, on the very next lap Johnson used his four fresh Goodyears to muscle his way into the lead, a lead he would not surrender. Stewart held onto second ahead of Busch to earn his best finish of 2010 and his first top-five finish of the season as well.

All in all, it was a good day for the Indiana native.

“It’s a gamble taking two tires, obviously,” said Stewart, who moved three spots to fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings. “Our car was really loose before that last pit stop, so we felt like we were in a position where we could take two (tires). Darian (Grubb, crew chief) made a great chassis adjustment that got the car tight enough for the last 10 laps to at least race the guys that I was on the same tires with. We had to do that to get some track position, and I felt like it was a risk worth taking. We just couldn’t hold off Jimmie.”

And despite having to settle for second, Stewart professed to be pleased afterwards.

“It was a 10-lap sprint to the end there,” said Stewart. “Jimmie had one of the best cars all day, and we had a good race car, too. We just never really got off on restarts to get going. That last one was probably one of the best restarts I had all day as far as getting moving and getting momentum and getting locked in. I couldn’t make my car wide enough to keep Jimmie behind us. His car was good no matter where he needed to go. Congratulations to Jimmie. I couldn’t do anything with him.”

So Stewart took what he could and now heads to Martinsville Speedway, another good track for him.

“We got us a top-five there and I’m proud of our guys,” Stewart said. “It’s fun when you can get a car to drive well here. It’s feast or famine here at Bristol. If your car drives well, it’s a fun, great day. If something’s wrong or you have a problem and you get in the back, it’s a day to forget. Glad we ended up with a good day.”

LINK >RESULTS: Food City 500 - BRISTOL

Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEEDtv.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.