Tony Stewart Wins At Sonoma in Dramatic Last Lap Fashion

If Dale Earnhardt Jr needs a topic for the watercooler on Monday Morning, it would make sense that he would ask his co-workers "did you see Tony shove Denny into the wall on the last lap?". It has been 3 years since Tony Stewart's last Sprint Cup series win (June 2013, Dover). 

Stewart needed a win to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, and with Sunday’s result, Smoke is 32nd in the standings, nine points away from the 30th position he needs to achieve to become Chase-eligible.

"I made mistakes the last two laps," acknowledged Stewart, who missed the first eight races of the season after injuring his back in an ATV accident during the offseason. "I had just a little bit too much rear brake for Turn 7, and wheel-hopped it two laps in a row. I felt a nudge when I got down there and he knew where it was and he did the right thing doing it there."

"But if I could get to him, he knew what was coming. He told me (after the race) he was proud of me. He knows what it means. We were teammates for a long time (at Joe Gibbs Racing), and we respect each other a lot." 

Third-place finisher Joey Logano was trailing the action into the final corner, hoping Hamlin and Stewart would take each other out.

"Going into Turn 11, I was 100-percent sure that Denny was not going to win just by watching it, and we were right there on the cusp of trying to sneak one by," Logano said. 

Had Stewart and Bugarewicz not chosen the perfect time to make a pit stop, however, Stewart almost certainly would not have not have won the race. With NASCAR officials scanning the track after reports of debris between Turns 6 and 7, Stewart and his crew chief decided to gamble and bring the car to the pits on Lap 86.

NASCAR called the caution a lap later, and when all the rest of the contending cars pitted under yellow on Lap 88, Stewart inherited a lead he would hold—with the exception of Hamlin’s brief interlude from Turns 7 to 11—for the rest of the race.

"It was just a chance that we took, a chance to get a win," Bugarewicz said.

Polesitter Carl Edwards finished fourth, followed by Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch completed the top 10. Harvick retained the series lead by 35 points over second-place Kurt Busch.