Tony Stewart Ends Winless Streak in First Race of the Chase at Chicagoland

Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

The Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway got off to a late start after it was postponed to Monday afternoon due to inclement weather. Like most races this season, the race came down to strategy and fuel mileage, but unlike the rest of the season, this was the first race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

With nerves and excitement running high, as the first race of the Chase finally got underway, the pre-race ceremonies ended on a lighter note with the Geico caveman serving as the Grand Marshal.

“It’s so easy even a caveman can do it” definitely does not apply to racing but Tony Stewart sure made it looked easy by holding off fellow championship contender Kevin Harvick for the win.

Last season in the Chase opener at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Stewart ran out of fuel with just one lap to go, costing him five spots in the standings – something he was never able to recover from, not even this season.

Call it redemption or call it a desire to keep Jimmie Johnson away from yet another championship. Either way, Stewart was able to end his winless streak this season and put himself in a far better position to contend for the championship. Pegged before the start of the race as statistically the favorite to win at Chicagoland - Stewart has had three wins, one pole, eight top-5s and nine top-10s in 11 starts at the track.

The race started off with Matt Kenseth as its polesitter. The driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion lead the pack to the green flag in his second pole of the season and sixth of his career. Kenseth finished the race in 21st and remains fourth in the Chase standings.

This season’s race at Chicagoland was moved from its normally scheduled July date to having the honor of being the first race of the Chase on the Sprint Cup schedule.

Half of the Chase drivers started the race in the top-10 with Kenseth having the highest starting position of the twelve Chase drivers. Harvick, coming off of a victory in last week’s race at Richmond, had the worst starting position this week of those in the Chase, starting from 30th.

Harvick quickly made his way to the front of the pack and with just six laps to go, he passed five-time champ Jimmie Johnson for second position. Unable to overtake Stewart, Harvick took home second-place but this helped him gain a spot in the standings and takeover the points lead.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. who started the race in 19th was able to conserve fuel and bring home a third-place finish, his second-best finish of the season. Earnhardt moved up five positions in the standings and currently sits in fifth.

Stewart was the big mover in terms of the standings, gaining seven spots and moving into the second position just seven points behind leader Harvick.

This Sunday the NSCS heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the second race in the Chase.

Race Results:
1. Tony Stewart
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
4. Carl Edwards
5. Brad Keselowski
6. Kurt Busch
7. Clint Bowyer
8. Ryan Newman
9. Mark Martin
10. Jimmie Johnson
11. David Ragan
12. Kasey Kahne
13. Brian Vickers
14. Juan Montoya
15. Jeff Burton
16. Joey Logano
17. Regan Smith
18. Martin Truex Jr.
19. Marcos Ambrose
20. Paul Menard
21. Matt Kenseth
22. Kyle Busch
23. Trevor Bayne
24. Jeff Gordon
25. Mike Bliss
26. Greg Biffle
27. A.J. Allmendinger
28. Andy Lally
29. Casey Mears
30. Landon Cassill
31. Denny Hamlin
32. David Reutimann
33. Dave Blaney
34. J.J. Yeley
35. Scott Speed
36. David Gilliland
37. Bobby Labonte
38. Jamie McMurray
39. Robby Gordon
40. Joe Nemechek
41. David Stremme
42. Josh Wise
43. Michael McDowell

Lap 30 – The yellow flag waves for the competition caution and Kyle Busch led the race off of pit road, followed by Matt Kenseth in the first caution of the day.

Lap 70 – There is a caution for debris in Turn 2 and Kasey Kahne is sent to the rear of the pack for pitting too early and speeding while exiting pit road.

Lap 164 – The yellow flag waves for fluid leaking from the No. 1 of Jamie McMurray. Keselowski goes on to lead.

Lap 204 – The fifth caution of the day is called after J.J. Yeley scrapes the wall in Turn 3. With 58 laps to go, Stewart leads the race.

Lap 213 - With 54 laps to go, the sixth and final caution of the day is called for debris. After being penalized and sent to the rear earlier in the race, Kahne receives the free pass. Kenseth wins the battle off pit road followed by Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Paul Menard. Truex Jr. leads the race after staying out on the track.
Tony Stewart Ends Winless Streak in First Race of the Chase at Chicagoland Tony Stewart Ends Winless Streak in First Race of the Chase at Chicagoland Reviewed by Unknown on Monday, September 19, 2011 Rating: 5