Stewart beats Montoya for first Cup win of 2013

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Tony Stewart reeled in and passed Juan Pablo Montoya with three laps remaining to win the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Raceway for his first Sprint Cup victory of 2013.

Montoya won the race off pit road after a caution period caused by a Denny Hamlin wreck with 24 laps to go, and was on the outside of Jimmie Johnson as the two prepared for a restart with 19 laps left. Johnson then appeared to have badly burned the former Indianapolis 500 winner on the restart as he pulled away, but NASCAR said Johnson jumped ahead of the Turn 4 acceleration zone and penalized the five-time Sprint Cup champion with a drive-through penalty.

“I was half-throttle the whole frontstretch and at some point, I gotta go,” Johnson told Fox Sports afterwards. “In this situation, NASCAR has the judgement to decide whether you jumped the start or not, but [Montoya was] not even going so I’m not if his car broke or was off-power…I’m running half-throttle down the frontstretch waiting for him and he never [came.]

“[Crew chief] Chad [Knaus] even told me on the radio that something had happened and I should just take off and not worry about it, and then we were called on it.”

At that point, it appeared Montoya would finally break through for his first Cup victory on an oval. But Stewart continued to eat into Montoya’s lead and with three laps left, he pulled off the race-winning pass on the outside lane.

“It’s been such a tough year,” Stewart said to Fox Sports in Victory Lane. “…We’ve let [our fans] down for a long time. Hopefully today, we’ll start building momentum back now.”

Montoya managed to hold on to second place over Jeff Gordon, who stretched his fuel and tires over the final 99 laps to get a third-place finish. Kyle Busch led 150 laps on the day but had to settle for fourth at the finish, and Brad Keselowski rounded out the Top-5 in a nice bounce-back effort for him.