Stewart finally tames Talladega

TALLADEGA, Ala. --- Tony Stewart held off Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s last-lap charge to win the Nationwide Series race Saturday for his first career victory at Talladega Superspeedway.

 

"This is not like winning a regular Nationwide race," he said. "To me this is the biggest one I've had. To finally win at Talladega, it's more than I can put into words."

The first wreck occurred 10 laps into the race when Dario Franchitti lost his right rear tire, hit the wall and spiraled down the track. He was down on the apron when his car was T-boned by Larry Gunselman. Both drivers were transported to a hospital for observation, and X-rays showed Franchitti broke his left ankle.

It was unclear whether Fran-chitti, the reigning IndyCar Series champion and Indianapolis 500 winner, would race in the Sprint Cup Series today.

Stewart started from the pole, led 81 of the 117 laps, and sat comfortably out front in the waning laps with Earnhardt on his rear bumper just biding his time to make a move. Caution came out with five laps to go for debris, setting up a two-lap sprint to the finish.

They raced nose-to-tail for the first lap, then Earnhardt pulled out of line to make his charge. But Earnhardt didn't have enough momentum and didn't get the help he needed to race past Stewart. It allowed Stewart to go virtually unchallenged for the final lap, as Earnhardt faded to sixth.

"Me and Tony worked great together the entire race and if I could help it, I wanted it to come down between me and him because we worked together the whole race and it was down to the last lap," Earnhardt said.

It was Stewart's first win in any series at Talladega, where he has finished second in six Cup Series races. His previous best finish in a Nationwide race at the track was second last year.

David Stremme finished second, his best result since he finished second in Milwaukee in 2004.

Bobby Hamilton Jr. was third, and both agreed nobody had a car strong enough to challenge Stewart or Earnhardt.

"They were in their own deal," Stremme said. "The rest of us were just trying to run together and make our own moves."

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