Stewart Sees Red Wins Thatlook-Com 300

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  • Stewart Stalks Elusive Win at New Hampshire

    LOUDON, N.H. -- Tony Stewart again had a fuel problem but got lucky Sunday and won a rain-shortened race dedicated to rival Kenny Irwin, who died while practicing two days earlier.

    Stewart dominated the New England 300, leading 156 of 273 laps. A year ago, a fuel miscalculation by his crew cost him the race at New Hampshire International Speedway -- where Irwin died Friday of multiple injuries from a horrendous crash.

    "I want to win this one for Kenny," Stewart said during the first of two rain delays. "I'm sure he's riding along with all of us this weekend."

    The win moved Stewart up three spots in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. He now is fifth, behind Bobby Labonte, Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett and Ward Burton.

    Nemechek finished second Sunday in a Chevrolet followed by Mark Martin in a Ford, Jerry Nadeau and three-time Loudon winner Jeff Gordon, both in Chevrolets.

    Martin, winless since April, was in a commanding position had the race gone the distance.

    "We started off wallowing in mediocrity and progressively made it better," he said. "The two guys in front of would have had to stop for gas.

    "But it would have been robbery because the 20 car (Stewart) was the class of the field."

    Nemechek wasn't disappointed with his finish.

    "It was one of those-close-but-not enough days," he said. "We put a new motor in it this morning, and we overcame a lot of odds."

    The victory Sunday capped an eventful week for Stewart, whose plane had to make an emergency landing Wednesday in Asheville, N.C., when it developed an engine problem en route to a promotional appearance in Evansville, Ind.

    Stewart won a rain-shortened event for the second time this season. He took the Kmart 400 at Michigan Speedway last month when it ended with four laps remaining. He also won a week earlier in Dover, Del.

    Meanwhile, Mike Helton, NASCAR's chief operating officer, said the cause of Irwin's crash remained undetermined. The death came eight weeks after Busch series driver Adam Petty was killed in the same low-banked third turn.

    Stewart's Pontiac, like the cars of the other 42 drivers, had a decal that read: "In Memory of Kenny Irwin."

    Stewart and Irwin had raced each other for most of the last decade, and had a fierce rivalry.

    Last October, they banged into each other twice in Martinsville, Va. The second collision sidelined Stewart, who threw heat shields from his shoes at Irwin -- an act that resulted in a $5,000 fine from NASCAR.

    Last July, Stewart dominated late in the race but lost when he ran out of fuel with less than three laps remaining. His crew inexplicably failed to bring him in for a splash of gas even though he was safely in the lead.

    That blunder cost him what would have been his first career victory. Later, he won three times on his way to a fourth-place finish in the points race -- capping the best rookie season in history.

    This time, he would have been forced to pit with about 20 laps left.

    Stewart, whose victory Sunday gave him a series-leading three, was so upset after losing last year to Jeff Burton that he left without speaking to the media. He later apologized.

    Nine weeks after that 10th-place finish, Stewart returned to New Hampshire fresh from his first career victory, and again attacked this troublesome, 1.058-mile track like few ever have. But an engine problem late in the race relegated him to a second behind Nemechek.

    At the end of the season, Nemechek vacated that car, and the ride went to Irwin.

    The thatlook.com 300 was the first of second half of the 34-race Winston Cup season.
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