Stewart Coasts To Victory

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. - Gasoline prices have dropped significantly around the country, but fuel was definitely at a premium in Sunday's Banquet 400.

Tony Stewart inherited the lead when several leaders ran out of fuel in the closing laps of the Banquet 400 and wound up costing across the finish line as well when his takn hit empty.

"That last lap was pretty quiet when your engine is not running," said Stewart. "I put it in neutral and looked back to see where the cars chasing me were. It was a great call by Zippy (crew chief Greg Zipadelli) to go without pitting. It's hard to slow down to save fuel. We lifted early, didn't use the brakes and let it roll going into the corners."

Casey Mears' tank also went dry on the final turn but he was able to coax his car to the checkered flag second followed by Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton, who kept the NEXTEL Cup Series point lead on a wild day.

Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Brian Vickers, Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. rounded out the first ten finishers.

Stewart took over the top spot when Jimmie Johnson was forced to pit for fuel on lap 263, coming up four laps short of his bid to win and work his way back up in the "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" championship.

Johnson wound up finishing 14th and dropped to eighth in the standings.

Mears' runnerup finish was his best since the season-opening Daytona 500.

"We had about an eighth or 12th place car depending on what we'd do with the car chassis-wise," Mears said. "(Crew chief) Donnie (Wingo) made a good call at the beginning of the last run. He told me to go ahead and save fuel in case we go to green, and that's what happened. I'm proud of all these guys."

Martin's third place finish helped him get back into the championship battle as he moved to third in the standings, 70 points out of the lead.

"They [the crew] just really worked hard, I'm proud of these guys," Martin said. "We're still in this thing and we're going to fight 'til the very end."

It wasn't a good day for several other drivers in the "Chase."

Jeff Gordon was running eighth when an engine malfunction ended his day on lap 238. He finished 39th.

"We don't know what it was," Gordon said. "I don't like to speculate. I know I didn't have any fuel pressure, but I don't know what it was."

Matt Kenseth was another "Chaser" who suffered through a long day with an ill-handling car, that led to a 23rd place finish.

"I probably drove about 800 miles, but I don't know what we had wrong," Kenseth said. "We obviously had something wrong. Yesterday, we really chased it all day and this was how bad we ran all day yesterday. I really don't know. They changed everything on it today. I'm just kind of dumbfounded. The car was real good in the tunnel and everything - it was aligned right - but it was so terribly loose all day."

Stewart's average speed was 121.753 mph in a race slowed 11 times for 45 laps of caution.

The NEXTEL Cup Series now heads to Talladega Superspeedway for next Sunday's UAW Ford 500.

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