FONTANA, Calif. — Tony Stewart is definitely back in the Chase. Stewart jumped out front on a green/white/checker restart and won Sunday’s California Cup race, ahead of Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson. It was Stewart’s 30th career Cup victory, but his first at the Fontana track.
“I knew I was going to have my hands full with him (Jimmie Johnson) on that last restart,” said Stewart. “I wasn’t sure we were good enough to win, but we did it.“I know we can still win this thing (the Chase), but we need some help. It’s still a long way, but if we can keep winning, it’ll be much easier.”
He moved up five spots and is now 107 points back of Johnson, the leader.
Clint Bowyer passed Jimmie Johnson on the final lap, then held on to finish second.
“I guess I’m happy with the finish, I just wish we could have won,” said Bowyer. “I’m frustrated, because I wanted to redeem my team, and show our win two week’s ago was not a fluke. I guess we’ll have to wait until the next race.”
Bowyer remains last in the 12-man chase field, 247 points out.
Johnson challenged for the lead in the final laps of the race, but had to settle for third.
“Our car just didn’t have anything on the bottom side of the track,” said Johnson. “I thought we had a great performance. We had a top-three and we kept our momentum going.”
Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon and David Reutimann were the remaining top-10 finishers.
Kyle Busch, winner of Saturday’s Nationwide race, lost an engine and finished 35th. He dropped from seventh to ninth in points.
“There was a loud pop coming out of turn two when I had it wide open,” said Busch. “I don’t know what happened. The engine just broke.”
Chase leaders with six to go: 1. Johnson-5,673, 2. Hamlin-5,637, 3. Harvick-5,619, 4. J. Gordon-5,558, 5. Stewart-5,566, 6. Kurt Busch-5,533, 7. Edwards-5,511, 8. Burton-5,496, 9. Kyle Busch-5,486, 10. Biffle-5,458, 11. Kenseth-5,432, 12. Bowyer-5,426.