Formula One
 Monday, October 2
Stewart finishes where he starts at Martinsville
 Associated Press

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- The way Tony Stewart has been dominating at Martinsville Speedway, he's bound to eventually learn to like the place.

Stewart kept the lead through the final set of pit stops and quickly ended runner-up Dale Earnhardt's chances of making it a duel to the end by pulling away over the final 11 laps Sunday for his second consecutive victory.

Tony Stewart
Tony Stewart takes his fifth checkered flag of the season and first at Martinsville Speedway.

Stewart, who started on the pole for the second time this season at Martinsville, pulled away from The Intimidator to win the NAPA 500 by .672 seconds. It was his Winston Cup-leading fifth victory this year.

"To beat Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Burton here at Martinsville is just an unbelievable feeling," Stewart said after his eighth career victory.

Earnhardt edged Burton for second and gained 36 points on championship leader Bobby Labonte with six races remaining on the schedule.

Ricky Rudd finished fourth, followed by Jeff Gordon and Dale Jarrett.

Stewart, who has said all week that Martinsville isn't his favorite track, said he was spurred on by booing that lasted throughout the race.

"I want to thank those three guys at the back of the grandstand," he said. "They kept booing us all day and that pumped me up more than anything."

The race seemed to be shaping up as a classic short-track event, and when the 13th and final caution flew on the 481st lap, the crowd roared because it erased Stewart's large lead and gave Earnhardt a chance.

But the green flag on lap No. 490 was a go for Stewart to win.

"I couldn't catch him," said a disappointed Earnhardt. "If I could have got to him, it would have been good, but I couldn't catch him."

Labonte, who overcame some bad luck to finish 10th, now leads by 213 points in a bid for his first championship. Burton passed series champion Dale Jarrett for third, and is 227 points back.

Burton appeared to have the strongest car for much of the race and led 202 of the first 467 laps. But Dave Blaney's spin brought out the 12th caution, ending 101 laps of green-flag racing and jumbled things up.

Sterling Marlin took only two tires and was first out of the pits, followed by Stewart, Gordon, Burton and Earnhardt. Stewart need only two laps to pass Marlin, Earnhardt close behind, and it never changed.

"It was a good race, and it came down to a good race at the end," Earnhardt said. "And that's what it's all about in short-track racing."

Labonte's recovery from repeated bad luck ended up being one of the biggest stories of the day, keeping him on pace for the championship.

With about 215 laps to go, all the leaders pitted under caution.

Labonte, who went onto pit road in fifth place, was on his way out when Earnhardt cut off Rudd, causing a backup that ended with Labonte getting pinched by two other cars, damaging the front of his Pontiac.

Labonte pitted twice more under the yellow to have the damage fixed, then was running 26th when it went back to green with 209 laps left.

After working his way back into the top 10, Labonte was bumped by Mike Skinner coming out of the fourth turn with 23 laps remaining.

The bump caused Labonte's car to spin in a cloud of smoke with cars passing on both sides. But he regained control and sped off, having lost just one position on the track.

NAPA AutoCare 500 results

Notebook: Labonte's action-packed day ends with another top-10 finish

 Tony Stewart holds on to win his second race in as many weeks.
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 Points leader Bobby Labonte spins, but keeps his car out of the wall.
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 Jeff Burton bumps Dale Earnhardt as the battle for second heats up.
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 Tony Stewart makes his move on Sterling Martin to take the lead.
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 Tony Stewart celebrates in Victory Lane at Martinsville.
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 Tony Stewart talks about his Martinsville mastery with ESPN's Matt Yocum.
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 Tony Stewart talks about the pressure coming down the home stretch.
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 Crew chief Greg Zipadelli explains Tony Stewart's approach.
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 Pits were costly for Jeff Burton, but he leaves Martinsville in third place.
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 Dale Earnhardt says he just didn't have enough to catch Tony Stewart.
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 Things could have been worse, so Bobby Labonte will take 10th.
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 Points leader Bobby Labonte comments on his pit road fender bender.
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 Crew Chief Jimmy Makar feels Martinsville's tight pit road assisted in Bobby Labonte's troubles.
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