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Tony Stewart Wins NASCAR Chase Opener [VIDEO]

Tony Stewart celebrates his first victory of the season at Chicagoland Speedway (Getty Images)

Tony Stewart’s first win of the season couldn’t have come at a better time.  One day after rain washed out the scheduled Chase for the Nextel Cup opener at Chicagoland, Stewart ended a 32-race winless skid by conserving fuel over the final laps for his 40th career victory.  It ties him with Mark Martin for 16th place on the all-time career victories list, but more importantly it moves him into second place in the Sprint Cup standings, 7 points behind leader Kevin Harvick.

Harvick held on to the points lead by finishing second while a number of other contenders dropped in the standings when they ran out of fuel on the final lap.  Five-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson, series co-leader Kyle Busch, pole sitter Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon all tried to stretch their gas tanks but ran dry.  Kenseth led 46 laps, but because he got a push across the finish by teammate J-J Yaley NASCAR ruled it illegal and dropped him to 21st place. 

Kyle Busch came in 22nd and dropped from first to ninth in points.

Gordon came in 24th and dropped from third to 11th in the standings

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. took advantage of some of the other drivers’ fuel problems and came in third.  Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski closed out the top five.

Next stop is New Hampshire on Sunday.

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