Editor’s note: The 25th annual NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race was held May 16, 2009 and featured in National Speed Sport News, after Tony Stewart won at Charlotte Motor Speedway for Stewart-Haas Racing and earned $1 million.
May 16 marks the 10th anniversary of Stewart’s All-Star victory, and the following story is a present-day retelling of the events of that night.
CONCORD, N.C. – Tony Stewart went out on a limb by leaving Joe Gibbs Racing to become co-owner of the rebranded Stewart-Haas Racing team alongside Haas Automation founder Gene Haas.
Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, that gamble paid off handsomely: to the tune of a million-dollar payday, in fact.
Stewart collected the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory for Stewart-Haas Racing with a thrilling late-race charge in NASCAR Sprint All-Star Challenge XXV, passing Matt Kenseth with two laps to go and running away to a one-second victory, his first as a NASCAR owner.
“It’s awesome,” said Stewart in victory lane. “Man, when I got out on the frontstretch, the atmosphere … the response from this crowd was amazing. They’ve been behind us all year, but this win is for two people and one group of people, and that’s Gene Haas and Joe Custer and all these fans who believed in us and believed we could do this.
“The gamble was for Gene Haas, and he’s here with us tonight … man, I’m telling you, he won’t miss a week now,” Stewart added. “He gets here a week and the first week he’s here, we win the race. I’m just so thankful. … Ryan Newman should have won this race, and if he hadn’t cut down a tire he’d be here instead of me, but we’d be just as happy.”
Stewart started 15th in the 100-lap, four-segment all-star event, but found himself moving forward during the final 10-lap dash to the checkered flag after restarting in sixth.
Following an early caution for a spinning Jimmie Johnson and a subsequent crash by Jeff Gordon with seven to go, after Gordon, Kyle Busch and Stewart’s teammate Ryan Newman tangled off turn four while racing three-wide for the lead, Stewart lined up third for the definitive run to the checkered flag and wasted no time making his presence known.
He charged past Busch for the runner-up position coming to five to go and got inside Kenseth off turn two with four laps left, but got loose in turn three and fell back.
Undeterred, Stewart reloaded his weapons for a final assault, and when Kenseth’s Ford pushed high in turn one with two circuits remaining, Stewart went for the kill.
He flashed past Kenseth on the bottom and never looked back after that.
Kenseth was forced to settle for second and a $200,000 payout, an ill-handling car in the final laps causing his undoing at the front of the field.
“We just got the car too tight,” Kenseth lamented. “We had a really good car on long runs, but I just couldn’t hold Tony off at the end. I’m really disappointed. It looked like I just moved over and he just drove right by me.
“Overall we had a good car … but with all the short runs we got, the tires were too hot and we just couldn’t hang on.”
Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards closed the top five. Busch finished seventh.
In Stewart’s eyes, Saturday night’s winning performance made a point, and loudly.
“There have been a lot of people who maybe haven’t known what to think about what we’re doing with this team,” Stewart said. “I think this sends a message about how dedicated our organization is to being successful. People have questioned whether or not I made a good decision in becoming a team owner, but this is what it’s all about right here.
“Standing on the stage and getting a million-dollar check – that’s a statement.”
Stewart officially earned $1,058,656 for his All-Star Race win. He led only the last two laps.