Tony Stewart had to survive 16 cautions, a red flag and numerous attempts to grab the lead by Hendrick teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson to earn his 25th win of his career. Gordon had a chance to get to Stewart's bumper on the last restart...
Tony Stewart had to survive 16 cautions, a red flag and numerous attempts to grab the lead by Hendrick teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson to earn his 25th win of his career. Gordon had a chance to get to Stewart's bumper on the last restart with three to go, but the No. 24 slipped coming out of turn two allowing the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevy to have clear sailing to the checkered flag.
"Being able to hold that 24 car off is what makes me happy today," said Stewart. "Jeff (Gordon) is so good here and especially late in the race like that. When I saw him scrubbing back and forth I thought 'he is holding something back'. What an awesome way to get this first one done."
It is the reigning NASCAR Nextel Cup champion's first win of the 2006 season.
Gordon, a seven-time winner at Martinsville, came in second.
"I did everything I did to get some heat and scrub the tires good," said Gordon. "The caution before that, on the restart we took off and I was like 'oh man we got something for him'. I knew if I could get my nose in there things were going to get interesting. It was just an incredible effort.we weren't the best car today we had to work on the handling.I was just happy to be in the top five.
"If I could have gotten a fender under him it would have been interesting. I just didn't have enough for Tony."
Jimmie Johnson was third, "I was sliding all over the place.we just ran out of stuff their late."
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kyle Busch complete the top five.
"Beating and banging man," said Earnhardt whose car looked like a survivor from the demolition derby by the end of the race. "I was worried my car was too banged up to be competitive. I am real proud of my team's effort. It is a real pleasure to drive this car when everyone works as hard as they do, even though we didn't win we really felt like it."
Polesitter Johnson brought the field to the green flag but it only took until lap three for the first caution flag to fall after contact between Clint Bowyer, Chad Chaffin, Earnhardt, Jr., Robby Gordon and Kyle Petty. The field got back to green on lap 10 but the second yellow came at lap 14 after a spin by Travis Kvapil.
Johnson maintained the lead through both cautions, but slipped on lap 28 allowing Jamie McMurray to grab the lead with Stewart moving to second, slipping Johnson to third. Stewart worked on McMurray until he finally passed for the lead on lap 35.
Stewart led through lap 90, when the day's third caution waved for a flat tire and subsequent debris from Gordon's No. 24 Chevy. The No. 20 Chevy was still the leader after pit stops followed by Johnson and Kasey Kahne. Gordon managed to restart on the lead lap on the tale end of the longest line.
On lap 110, Greg Biffle made contact with Jeff Burton sending the No. 16 Ford into the inside wall and causing the fourth caution. Stewart was still in the top spot on the restart and led through the next two caution periods.
Stewart finally lost the lead when Johnson beat him out of the pits on lap 174, but by lap 183 the No. 20 was back in the catbird seat. The seventh caution on lap 226, for the contact between Kurt Busch and Jeff Burton sent the leaders back in for service. Johnson once again beat Stewart out grabbing the lead.
Johnson was still the leader when the eighth caution waved at lap 291 but a miscue on pit road let Stewart emerge first with Johnson restarting third. Stewart had gained a second lead over the field when the ninth caution came at lap 307 when Denny Hamlin cut a tire and hit the wall.
Some of the leaders pitted but Stewart stayed out maintaining the lead followed by Johnson and Kyle Busch on the restart at lap 314. Stewart was still the leader through the next two cautions, but lost the lead to Johnson just before the 12th caution flew at lap 366.
Johnson beat everyone off pit road to maintain the number one spot at the restart on lap 372. But Stewart jumped on Johnson and made the pass for the lead in just one circuit around the paper-clip shaped track.
With 121 to go, Johnson swiped the lead back from Stewart quickly jumping out to a 1.1-second advantage on the field. The No. 48 was still the leader when Ryan Newman cut a tire on lap 426 causing the 13th caution period.
The leaders pitted with Johnson out first followed by Stewart, Kyle Busch and Elliott Sadler. Johnson held onto the lead through the next set of caution flags but with 30 to go Stewart began to press Johnson for the lead.
The battled for a few laps before Stewart finally got by at lap 476. With 17 to go, Stewart had a good lead on the field and Gordon moved teammate Johnson out of the way to garner second.
With 14 to go, Joe Nemechek pounded the wall stopping the action. The field restarted with eight to go but Matt Kenseth smacked the outside wall on the restart slowing the field and bringing out the red flag.
Stewart led the grid to the green for the restart with three laps left to settle it. Gordon got loose out of two trying to catch Stewart bottlenecking the field and allowing the No. 20 car to get a sizeable lead on the field and take the win.
There were 16 cautions for 87 laps and 6 lead changes among 12 drivers.
Johnson's strong run reinstates him as the Nextel Cup point leader. Mark Martin (-59), Matt Kenseth (-60), Kasey Kahne (-101), Kyle Busch (-101), Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (-109), Jeff Gordon (-119), Tony Stewart (-142), Elliott Sadler (-198) and Casey Mears (-209) complete the top ten.