THIS WEEK IN NASCAR Stewart shows his chops

The inevitable finally happened. Ever since his rookie season in 1999, the Sprint All-Star Race has seemed ideally suited to the driving style of Tony Stewart. Stewart, the only driver to date who has won championships under both the former system (2002) and the Chase format (2005), finally won Lowe’s Motor Speedway’s all-star event in his 11th by Monte Dutton try. “There are a lot of races I still haven’t won,” said Stewart, “but it’s a hard race to win. Nobody holds anything back. “This is a special race. You know it’s different. You know it’s going to be more difficult because of that. We always, in the past last 10 years here, were always good on long runs and always good late in the race. This kind of format never fit the package that we had.” Stewart, who turned 38 on May 20, roared to the front in the final segment, passing Matt Kenseth with less than two laps remaining in the fourth and final segment. This year Stewart became a car owner, acquiring a majority share in what is now Stewart Haas Racing. Eleven races into the season, Stewart is second in the Sprint Cup standings, but he hasn’t won an official race yet. The Sprint All-Star Race isn’t a “points” race. He became only the second driverowner to win the All-Star Race. The first was Geoff Bodine in 1994. For 10 years, Stewart competed for Joe Gibbs Racing, where he has been succeeded by rookie Joey Logano. This year Stewart hired Ryan Newman as his teammate. After a slow start, Newman has risen to eighth place in the point standings. For all those years at JGR, Stewart had one crew chief, Greg Zipadelli, now paired with Logano. Darian Grubb, formerly at Hendrick Motorsports, now leads Stewart’s team. “They’ll basically have that monkey off their back,” said Grubb of the team after Stewart’s victory. “We don’t want to lose the monkey. We want him to hang out with us.”

(c) 2009 King Features Synd., Inc.

Tony Stewart celebrates winning the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, his first victory as a team owner. (Getty Images for NASCAR photo)