Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), took the lead for good on the next-to-last lap of Sunday’s Centurion Boats at The Glen at the Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International road course and went on to score his third win in his last four Nascar Nextel Cup Series outings.
Stewart, who led three times for a total of 20 laps around the 2.45-mile, 11-turn Watkins Glen layout, was in second-place and dogging race-leader Jeff Gordon as the two took the white flag to begin their final tour of the circuit. Gordon then spun in the fast, sweeping right-hand turn one to hand the lead over to Stewart, who then held off a hard-charging Carl Edwards before Edwards spun off-track on his own on the final lap and Stewart coasted to victory.
Gordon’s off-track excursion was eerily similar to Stewart’s spin while leading on lap 44 of the 90-lap event, which gave Gordon back the lead for the second time today. Gordon led a race-high 51 laps, but his late-race spin relegated him to ninth-place at the finish and opened the door for Stewart’s fourth career victory at Watkins Glen and the sixth Nextel Cup Series road-course win of his career.
After working his way up from his fifth starting position to challenge the pole-sitting Gordon for the lead after a pass of second-place JGR teammate Denny Hamlin during the opening six laps of the race, Stewart passed Gordon in turn one for the first time on a lap-13 restart and went on to lead the next 11 laps before pitting with the rest of the leaders for the first time under yellow on lap 24. He resumed in 10th behind a slew of cars running an alternate strategy. Stewart then passed Gordon again on lap 34, this time for second-place, and then inherited the lead for the second time on the day when Patrick Carpentier pitted on lap 38. Six laps later, with Gordon in hot pursuit, Stewart spun in turn one and fell all the way back to 19th.
By the time he and the rest of the leaders pitted for what turned out to be the final time under caution on lap 53, Stewart was up to 14th. He broke back into the top-10 when several cars ahead of him pitted to top off their tanks on lap 60, and was back in the top-five and by lap 63, was challenging Hamlin for second-place before finally getting past him on lap 78. After several attempts to catch Gordon for the lead after the day’s final restart on lap 82, Stewart applied steady pressure the rest of the way before Gordon’s fateful spin on lap 89.
Stewart gained one position in the championship point standings by virtue of his victory today. The two-time Nextel Cup champion is now fourth in points, 445 behind Gordon, the series leader.