Tony Stewart survived a fierce last-lap duel with former teammate Denny Hamlin, nosing past Hamlin under braking in the next-to-last corner of the final lap at Sonoma Raceway and driving on to his forty-ninth career Cup Series victory. It ended an eighty-four-race winless streak for the three-time champion that dated back to June 2013.
Before Sunday, Stewart’s last trip to Victory Lane had come at Dover International Speedway. He took the white flag yesterday with Hamlin in hot pursuit and briefly lost the lead to his Joe Gibbs Racing rival. But Stewart calmly measured his opponent as they navigated the final turns on the Northern California road course and made his winning pass with the checkered flag in sight. The margin of victory was six-tenths of a second.
Joey Logano, pole sitter Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Junior completed the top five.
Stewart sat out the early weeks of the season while recovering from back surgery after he was injured in late January while driving dune buggies on vacation in California. Despite missing eight races, he’s eligible for the post-season Chase provided he’s among the top thirty in the standings at the end of the regular season.
With Sunday’s victory, Stewart’s nine points shy of that with 10 races left before the sixteen-driver title field is set … Stewart started tenth and led the final twenty-two laps of Sunday’s race in his Number-14 Chevrolet. Runner-up Hamlin led a race-high thirty-three laps around the two-mile natural road course …Sunday’s race included twelve lead changes among eight drivers. There were four cautions for ten laps.