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NASCAR/Racing

Stewart joins elite company with Chase win

September 21st, 2011 8:53 am by Jeff Birchfield

The All-American racer turned in an all-world performance on Monday.
Tony Stewart, nicknamed the All-American racer for his versatilty by former NASCAR champion Rusty Wallace, effectively stretched his fuel mileage to win Monday’s Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Besides moving him to second behind race runner-up Kevin Harvick in the points, it put Stewart, a two-time Sprint Cup champion, into elite company with the 13th straight season he has won at least one race. Only seven drivers have longer streaks, with Richard Petty winning a race for 18 straight years, while Ricky Rudd and Wallace hold the modern-era record of wins over 16 straight seasons.
Others with long streaks include David Pearson with 17 consecutive winning seasons, Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip with 15, and Jeff Gordon with 14.
Stewart’s 13th season tied him with three-time NASCAR champions Lee Petty and Cale Yarborough on the all-time list. One difference about Stewart’s winning streak is it actually started in his rookie year of 1999.
The closest it came to ending was 2008 when Stewart’s lone victory was over Regan Smith in a disputed finish at Talladega.
“Yeah, it’s cool,” Stewart said. “It would have been hard to take at the end of the year to break that string. I mean, I had a long string in USAC of winning a race every year for 15 or 16 years there. I don’t know how many guys can say that they’ve won in every year that they’ve competed in the series. So that’s something I’m really proud of and I’ve had two great teams that have helped me do that.”
Among active drivers, only Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin can also boast of winning a race every year they’ve been in the series.
Stewart, who turned 40 in May and added a World of Outlaws victory to his long resume over the summer, earned a 40th Sprint Cup win. It tied him with Mark Martin for 16th on NASCAR’s all-time win list. As someone who appreciates the history of the sport and is an unabashed fan of Martin, the driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet talked about what the victory meant.
“I’m proud of that, to be tied with Mark Martin, that’s a huge honor in this sport,” he said. “Mark’s been one of the guys that’s been one of my mentors and somebody that’s on my top five on my hero list. I’m probably the most proud of that fact after winning than anything.
“He’s somebody I’ve got a lot of respect for and a lot of admiration for. And I wish I could be more like him. But that’s pretty cool to be sitting here and be tied with him, it’s pretty neat.”
n Maryville’s Chris Johnson wrapped up his second consecutive DER Racing Series Super Pro championship last weekend at Bristol Dragway, while Thunder Valley veterans Tim Griffith of Cedar Bluff, Va., and John Nelson Jr. of Bristol earned titles in Pro and Sportsman, respectively.
Other champions were: Chester Lay in Trophy, Ben Knight in Motorcycle, Dylan Howard in Junior Dragster, Division 1, and Dylan Kiser, Division 2.
In individual races, Griffith defeated Larry Barr of Johnson City in Saturday’s Pro final, Nelson beat Don Evans of Abingdon, Va., in Sportsman final, and Knight knocked out Mike Conley of Jonesborough in the Motorcycle final.
Saturday Junior Dragster winners included: Howard, who ousted Roan Mountain’s Gracie Freeman in the Division 1 final, and Landon Stahl of Boone, N.C., in Division 2.
William Daniels beat Vance Houston in a battle of Newland, N.C. racers for the Super Pro title, while Bluff City’s Bill Roberts won over Roan Mountain’s Chrystal Freeman in the Trophy division.
Sunday winners were: Knoxville’s Travis Nelson in Super Pro, Chuck Chism of Asheville, N.C., in Pro, Cody Spears in Sportsman, Bryce Acuff of Knoxville in Motorcycle, Blountville’s Carson Brown in Jr. Dragster, Division 1, and Rogersville’s Gabe Ellison in Jr. Dragster, Division 2.
Freeman avenged her Saturday Trophy category loss by earning Sunday’s victory.
Thunder Valley returns to action with the Super Chevy Show, which runs from Friday to Sunday. The event is highlighted by Saturday’s Fas Mart Thunder Valley Mayhem and includes Transauras, the car-eating robotic dinosaur, and the Cannonball Express and Chattanooga Choo-Choo jet dragsters.
n After a first-round loss last Sunday at Charlotte, Allen Johnson enters this weekend’s NHRA Texas Fall Nationals sixth in Pro Stock points. The Greeneville driver is just 23 points out of the top five as five events remain in the six-race showdown.
The early exit from Charlotte eliminations didn’t discourage Johnson, who feels confident heading to the Texas Motorplex.
“I feel like I am driving good and we are making very good decisions right now,” said Johnson. “The team is working well together, and other than the Summit cars (Jason Line and Greg Anderson), we are the class of the field right now. We feel very good heading into the second race of the Countdown.”
Johnson was the No. 1 qualifier at Texas last season, advancing to the quarterfinals. In his career at the venue located just outside of Dallas, Johnson has reached the semifinals three times, although he still seeks his first final round appearance and win at the track. He has been among the top half of the field in qualifying on five occasions at the Texas Motorplex and in 16 of 17 events this season.
“Last year we went down to Texas and dominated speed-wise, but had some inconsistency,” noted Johnson. “This year we are going to turn that around. We look to be very consistent and go rounds. We are still in good shape in the Countdown and have plenty of rounds left to gain points.”

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