Stewart Powers To Win

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Tony Stewart dominated his third consecutive Martinsville race, but this time he ended up on top as he took the checkered flag in Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series DIRECTV 500.

Stewart's only challenge all day was polesitter Jimmie Johnson, who led 195 laps to Stewart's 288.

Stewart took the lead for the fifth and final time on lap 474 after passing Johnson and never looked back. Johnson's teammate Jeff Gordon battled back from blown tire on lap 90 to chase down Stewart in the closing laps.

On lap 494 a red flag was brought out for a crash involving Matt Kenseth going into Turn 1. When the green flag was thrown for the final time on lap 497, Stewart jumped ahead of Gordon and pulled away for his 25th career Cup Series win.

"I had an awesome car and being able to hold the 24 car off is what made me happy today," said Stewart, who has now led 818 laps over the last three Martinsville races. "Jeff is so good here. Especially late in the race like that. Even when I saw him go back and forth I thought 'he's holding something back."

On his way to the media center, Stewart celebrated his win by eating a famous Martinsville hot dog.

"When you're fat like me you get hungry," said Stewart.

Johnson wound up finishing third giving Hendrick Motorsports two cars in the top three on what would have been Ricky Hendrick's 26th birthday.

Along with Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. came back from an early misfortune in the race when his No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet was damaged in a multi-car crash on lap 2. The team got Junior back on track and he went on to finish fourth - his sixth top five at Martinsville.

"I was worried my car was tore up too bad to be competitive," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I want to thank the team for working hard and getting me back out on the race track without getting me a lap down."

Kyle Busch put another Hendrick car in the top five after finishing fifth - his second consecutive top 10 at the .526-mile speedway.

Elliott Sadler, Kevin Harvick, Brian Vickers, Jamie McMurray and Scott Riggs completed the top-10 finishers.

Reed Sorenson was the top finishing rookie in 12th.

Robby Gordon, who was one of the cars in the lap 2 incident, finished 43rd.

Jimmie Johnson jumped back into the point lead and now holds a 59-point edge over Mark Martin, who finished 13th in a battered car. Matt Kenseth (-60), Kasey Kahne (-101) and Kyle Busch (-101) round out the top five.

The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series now heads to Texas Motor Speedway for next Sunday's Samsung/Radio-Shack 500.

        

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