Tony Stewart’s season has gone from winless to winning streak at crunch time.
Don’t ask Smoke to explain it.
While Chase drivers around him run out of gas, Stewart has the fuel to go the distance and inject the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship with a dose of dominance that has him a formidable front-runner for a third title.
Stewart smoked ’em again and made it 2 for 2 in the Chase, pulling ahead when Clint Bowyer ran out of gas with two laps left to win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sunday.
“You don’t see it coming,” Stewart said.
Stewart is on a roll with eight races left, building on last week’s Chase-opening victory at Chicagoland Speedway with another strong late-race surge at New Hampshire. Both of his victories this season have come in the Chase and have propelled him to the top of the points standings.
The outcome was a complete reversal of the race at New Hampshire last fall, when Stewart’s tank ran dry a lap from the checkered flag and Bowyer pounced for the victory.
“If that’s not a flip-flop from last year, I don’t know what is,” Stewart said over the radio as he crossed the finish line.
Stewart, who won Cup titles in 2002 and 2005, is the second driver to ever open the Chase with consecutive victories.
Stewart led a pack that included four other Chase drivers in the top 10.
Brad Keselowski was second, Jeff Gordon was fourth, Matt Kenseth was sixth and Carl Edwards finished eighth. Gordon rocketed from 11th to sixth in the standings and is still a legitimate contender for his fifth championship.
Gordon ran out of gas last week and was forced to conserve fuel over the waning laps at New Hampshire.
“It’s something that we need to be better at,” he said.
Denny Hamlin, who entered in 12th and a whopping 41 points out, finished 29th and was the worst Chase finisher.
Jimmie Johnson, the five-time defending champion, finished 18th and is 10th in the standings.
Greg Biffle, the only other driver to open the Chase with two straight wins, was third Sunday. Brian Vickers was fifth.
Sebastian Vettel won the Singapore Grand Prix but the Red Bull driver will have to wait a little longer to clinch his second Formula One world championship.
The German led throughout from pole position to finish 1.7 seconds ahead of a fast-finishing Jenson Button, with Red Bull’s Mark Webber third.
Vettel leads the drivers championship by 124 points with five races left and is virtually certain to take back-to-back titles. Second-place Button would need to win every race while Vettel fails to gain any points.
Cruz Pedregon raced to his first win of the season and moved into the third in the Funny Car point standings at the NHRA Fall Nationals at Ennis, Texas.
Bob Vandergriff, Jason Line and Michael Phillips also won their divisions at Texas Motorplex in the second of six races in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.