FONTANA, Calif. --- This time Tony Stewart had enough gas to finish the race, and kept Clint Bowyer from any more final-lap magic.
Unlike the finish at New Hampshire four weeks ago, Stewart had enough gas to finish -- and win -- Sunday's Pepsi Max 400 at Auto Club Speedway. Bowyer, who inherited the win four weeks ago when Stewart ran out of gas coming to the final lap, had to settle for second.
And amid all the curious circumstances that mirrored the final 50 laps at New Hampshire, one thing remained constant: Jimmie Johnson. He finished third to expand his lead for a possible fifth consecutive Chase for the Championship.
"I finally won at California," Stewart said. "I can knock that off the list. We're doing everything we can do, but we're going to need some help (in the Chase). This team, they refuse to give up; they refuse to back down."
When Stewart ran out of the gas in the first of 10 races that make up the playoffs, it put him in a hole that's becoming more difficult to escape.
Johnson now has finished first, second and third in his past three races to create some separation with the rest of the contenders.
Johnson now is 36 points ahead of Denny Hamlin in the Chase. Stewart jumped up five positions to fifth, but he's still 107 points behind.
There were eight other drivers within 101 points of Johnson before the race. Now there are just four.
Stewart was leading with six laps to go, but Johnson was closing quickly. A caution for a wreck involving Kurt Busch and David Ragan, however, ended the charge. Bowyer battled with Johnson for second place after the final re-start, and that allowed Stewart to slip away to a 25-yard victory.
Bowyer edged Johnson for second by inches.