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Stewart takes NASCAR Sprint Cup win at Dover

DOVER, Del. — With one big move, Tony Stewart put Juan Montoya and a sluggish season well behind him.

After a mundane start, Stewart is back in Victory Lane — and in the thick of Chase for the Championship contention.

Stewart's outside pass on Montoya with three laps left won Sunday's FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway and snapped a 30-race winless streak.

"Our guys at our shop have been digging," Stewart said. "None of these guys get down. We have been down, but they haven't gotten down. That is what carries you to days like (Sunday)."

Stewart was stuck in 20th in the Sprint Cup standings and had no top-five finishes before Sunday, and he hadn't won on the concrete mile track since sweeping both races in 2000.

"It's been such a tough year," he said.

Stewart, who co-owns his Stewart-Haas team, stoutly defended crew chief Steve Addington's performance and thanked Hendrick Motorsports for supplying engines.

He also knows their work is far from finished.

"We realize this could put the (No.) 14 team in contention to make the Chase," he said. "That's not good enough."

He wants not only to make the 12-driver field but know he's a top contender for a fourth championship. His 48th win in NASCAR's top series pushed him to 16th in points and, halfway through the regular season, put him in one of two wild-card spots for drivers 11th to 20th in the standings. Stewart is the only driver in those spots with a win.

"It's been very hard when you have the start of the season that we had," Stewart said. "You start questioning, you start doubting, you start looking for answers that you don't have the knowledge to diagnose. That makes you feel very helpless at times."

Seven-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson appeared to have the car to beat, but he jumped a restart with 19 laps left and had to serve a pass-through penalty. Johnson argued over the radio and stayed on the track before he hit pit road.

With Johnson out of the picture, Montoya and Stewart battled for the lead to the end.

Jeff Gordon was third, followed by Kyle Busch, who led a race-high 150 laps, and Brad Keselowski. NASCAR said Kese­lowski, the reigning series champ, failed postrace inspection because the front of his No. 2 Ford was too low. This was crew chief Paul Wolfe's first race back after a two-race suspension for unapproved parts.

Stewart tested at Dover and hoped that would help at a track where he hadn't finished better than 20th in his previous four races.

Montoya's only two career Cup victories are on road courses. He tried to play the spoiler after Johnson's penalty but didn't have enough to hold off a hard-charging Stewart.

"The car was a little bit too much of a handful at the end," Montoya said. "We tried. I think it was too hot on the tires the run before and our left tires were completely gone."

Johnson, still first in points, finished 17th. Tampa's Aric Almirola was 18th, one lap down, and is 12th in points. David Reutimann of Zephyrhills was 26th.

Few drivers run as well deep into the season as Stewart. It might be time for him to get rolling again.

"It's not a fix-all for what we've got going on," Addington said. "It's a step in the right direction."

. Fast facts

Sprint Cup points

After 13 of 36 races. The top 10 plus two wild cards after 26 races make the Chase for the Championship.

Driver Pts. Back

Jimmie Johnson 473—

Carl Edwards 443 30

Clint Bowyer 423 50

Matt Kenseth 399 74

Kevin Harvick 399 74

D. Earnhardt Jr. 398 75

Kasey Kahne 392 81

Brad Keselowski 375 98

Kyle Busch 374 99

Paul Menard 371 102

Note: Points unofficial; NASCAR posts official results today

.Fast facts

Gearhead stats

Winner's average speed: 123.172 mph

Time of race: 3 hours, 14 minutes, 51 seconds

Margin of victory: 0.788 seconds

Caution flags: Seven for 32 laps

Lead changes: 21 among 11 drivers

Lap leaders: Hamlin 1-23; Ky.Busch 24-72; Kenseth 73; Keselowski 74-75; Ky.Busch 76-127; Truex 128; Kenseth 129-156; Ky.Busch 157-160; Truex 161; Ky.Busch 162-205; Johnson 206-235; Ky.Busch 236; Kahne 237-238; Johnson 239-279; Hamlin 280; Johnson 281-300; Hamlin 301-317; Ku.Busch 318-325; Johnson 326-377; Harvick 378; Montoya 379-397; Stewart 398-400

Stewart takes NASCAR Sprint Cup win at Dover 06/02/13 [Last modified: Sunday, June 2, 2013 11:39pm]

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