Stewart Kisses The Bricks

INDIANAPOLIS - Tony Stewart's dream came true on Sunday.

After growing up in its shadow and coming close in two different types of cars during his career, Stewart fulfilled his lifelong ambition of winning at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway when he drove to victory in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series "Allstate 400 at the Brickyard."

Stewart passed Kasey Kahne with ten laps to go and held on to win his fourth race of the season and the biggest of his career.

He stopped his Joe Gibbs Racing Home Depot Chevrolet in turn two and celebrated with his family and friends who were gathered in his suite overlooking the fabled track.

Stewart then drove to the start-finish line and as the crowd chanted "TONY, TONY, TONY," climbed the fence in celebration, which has been his trademark in this amazing season.

"Today has been my entire life," Stewart said as he laid on the frontstretch wall. "I feel like crap right now, but in five minutes I am going to feel good."

It was Stewart's 23rd career NEXTEL Cup win but none bigger to the driver who grew up less than 50 miles from the legendary track.

"I'm dying right now," Stewart said. "Too tired to chase fences right now. Give me five minutes and I'll be ready."

Kahne, who scored his first career NEXTEL Cup win at Richmond earlier this season and was congratulated by Stewart after taking the checkered flag, tried to run down the winner in the late laps to no avail.

"We had an awesome car," he said. "I just gave up a little bit through the restart. I couldn't do anything with it. It was a big win for Tony. He wanted to win this real bad."

Brian Vickers, Jeremy Mayfield and Matt Kenseth rounded out the Top 5.

Casey Mears, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Sterling Marlin and Kurt Busch completed the first ten finishers.

It was a disastrous day for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who needed a solid finish to keep his slim hopes of qualifying for this year's "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" championship season alive. He got caught up in an early race incident on the front straightaway after a lap 63 restart severely damaging his car as well as DEI teammate Martin Truex, Jr.'s. Earnhardt, Jr. was credited with a last place finish.

"That's life," Earnhardt Jr. said. "You have to deal with it, good or bad. If we make the Chase, we make it. If we don't, we don't. We'll still try to win some races before the year is out. I just hope I don't have to get back into that piece of crap today."

Jimmie Johnson, who had the series point lead coming into Sunday's race, crashed hard in the fourth turn wall late in the race after a tire failure. Johnson's car briefly caught fire as it came to rest on pit road. Johnson was taken to a nearby Indianapolis hospital for observation and was 38th in the final rundown.

Johnson's misfortune gave Stewart the lead in the standings after 21 races. Johnson trails by 75 points with Greg Biffle 111 back and Rusty Wallace and Kurt Busch rounding out the Top 5.

The NEXTEL Cup Series now travels to Watkins Glen International Raceway next Sunday.

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