- The Washington Times - Monday, June 8, 2009

LONG POND, Pa. | Tony Stewart won his first Sprint Cup points race as a team owner, coming from the rear of the field and taking a late gamble on fuel to win at Pocono Raceway.

The Sprint Cup points leader had to start at the back of Sunday’s race because a practice accident forced him into his backup car. Then Stewart figured he could drive the final 41 laps without a pit stop, and it paid off, helping snap a 19-race winless streak dating to last season.

Stewart won the All-Star race last month for Stewart-Haas Racing, and this victory in the Pocono 500 again stamped himself as a true threat to win his third Cup title.

“It’s just a little different when you’re the one that’s got to be accountable,” Stewart said.

Stewart is the first owner/driver to win a points race since Ricky Rudd at Martinsville, Va., in 1998. Carl Edwards was second, followed by David Reutimann, Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman.

“I didn’t think he was going to be a factor,” Edwards said of Stewart. “I was sure he was going to run out.”

The first Cup points race with double-file restarts finished without a problem. The drivers meeting lasted nearly 30 minutes as last-minute questions were answered on the new restart rules that line up the 43-car field following a yellow.

After a caution, Stewart led the field to the green flag with 45 laps to go in the 500-mile race. His six-second lead over Edwards with 10 laps left kept getting whittled away as Stewart eased off the breaks and didn’t push his car to save fuel.

With a lead in the points standings and a spot in the Chase for the championship all but assured, Stewart could afford to take a risk.

The two-time Cup champion sure knows about taking risks - and having them work out.

He has destroyed all expectations in his first season as owner and driver for Stewart-Haas Racing. It was the first points victory since he left Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of last year after 10 successful seasons to become co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing.

This was the first points victory for the team since their 2002 debut as Haas CNC Racing.

When rain washed out qualifying Friday, Stewart automatically sat on the pole as the points leader. He called this season one big dream and hoped he didn’t wake up and realize it was time to get ready to go to Daytona.

Stewart wrecked his car in practice Saturday, then took some of the fastest laps of the day in his backup. He joked that if he knew the backup was that strong, he would have crashed the first one right away.

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