Loudon, NH (Sports Network) - Tony Stewart is perfect so far in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship after a dramatic win in Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
In a reversal of last year's finish in the Chase race at New Hampshire, Stewart took the lead with two laps remaining when Clint Bowyer ran out of fuel. Stewart led just the last two laps to make it back-to-back wins in the first two playoff races this season. The two-time Sprint Cup Series champion kicked off the Chase by winning last Monday's rain-delayed 400-mile event at Chicagoland.
Stewart held the lead in the 2010 fall race at this 1.058-mile track but ran out of gas with a couple of laps to go, handing Bowyer the win. Stewart crossed the finish line in 24th.
"I know exactly what that feels like, and I know exactly how he feels right now," Stewart said. "I saw him slow down on the [backstretch], and I thought, 'Oh no, you're kidding me.' That's not the way you want to win for sure, but we're in the Chase, and we have to get everything we can get."
This time, Bowyer finished 26th.
Stewart claimed his 41st career win in the series, including three at New Hampshire. He also moved into the points lead, holding a seven-point advantage over Kevin Harvick, who finished 12th.
"We still got eight long weeks, so it's way too early to be counting chickens right now," Stewart added.
Stewart joined Greg Biffle as the only drivers to win the first two Chase races. Biffle accomplished the feat in 2008, winning at New Hampshire and then Dover. He finished the season third in points that year.
Brad Keselowski, also a championship contender, capitalized on pit strategy late in the race to finish second and move to within 11 points of Stewart.
"We were a legitimate top-10 car but maybe not quite a second-place car," he said.
Biffle, a non-Chase driver this year, finished third.
Jeff Gordon led the most laps with 78, but Gordon was held up during his last pit stop when he experienced a fueling issue. He managed to come home fourth. The four-time Cup titleholder is now 23 points out of the lead.
"It's frustrating for everybody on this team," Gordon said. "It was a bit of a surprise to all of us that I ran out [of fuel] under green. We expected to go a couple more laps. We're making great horsepower, but we're not getting good fuel mileage."
Brian Vickers crossed the line in fifth, followed by Roush Fenway Racing teammates Matt Kenseth, David Ragan and Carl Edwards.
On lap 173, Kenseth got turned around after he made contact with Edwards, forcing the third and final caution in the 300-lap race. Both drivers are in the Chase.
Edwards is currently fourth in the rankings (-14).
Juan Pablo Montoya and Regan Smith completed the top-10.
Other Chase drivers and their finishing positions include: Kyle Busch (11th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (17th), Jimmie Johnson (18th), Kurt Busch (22nd) and Ryan Newman (25th). Newman started on the pole and led the first 62 laps but suffered a flat tire in the closing laps.
For the second straight race, Denny Hamlin was the lowest finisher among the title contenders, this time with a 29th-place run. Hamlin is now 66 points out of the lead.
Johnson, the five-time consecutive series champion, trails Stewart by 29 markers.
09/25 18:47:47 ET