DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Fourth of July weekend is quickly becoming Tony Stewart's favorite holiday.
After winning the International Race of Champions event on Thursday night, Stewart made it back-to-back Pepsi 400 victories Saturday night as he drove his Home Depot Chevrolet to the checkered flag for his second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win of the season.
Starting from outside the front row, Stewart led 86 laps on his way to his second straight win in the annual mid-summer event.
But Stewart had to pass pole winner Boris Said, who was trying to pull off the NASCAR Cinderella story of the decade by winning his first NEXTEL Cup Series race.
Said found himself in front of the field with less than ten laps to go and the potential upset had the crowd on more than 140,000 screaming and on its feet.
But the race's fifth caution flew for a multi-car accident involving J.J. Yeley, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards setting up a three lap dash to the checkered flag.
On the final restart, Said's No. 60 Ford was in front, but Stewart finally powered by on the next circuit and the No. 20 Monte Carlo was in front on the white flag lap when NASCAR displayed the caution for debris effectively ending the race and giving Stewart his 26th career Cup win, which he celebrated in his tradition of climbing the frontstretch fence.
"It's harder to climb the fence," Stewart said when he finally made it to victory lane after his celebration with the fans. "This team needed this. We had two rough weeks the last couple weeks with Michigan and Sonoma. It's nice to finish this one off here."
Kyle Busch and his brother Kurt Busch followed Stewart across the finish line with Said and Elliott Sadler rounding out the Top 5.
"It's like a win, I mean this is the biggest thing I've accomplished in racing," Said commented after notching the Top Five in his former Roush Racing Fusion.
"(Jack) gave me a great opportunity to let me buy cars and use all his resources - all those guys in the body shop to put this body on - and everybody at Roush-Yates Engines, I had a great engine out there.
"It's only my third restrictor plate race. Tony Stewart is a damn good driver, and congrats to him, but I feel like I won finishing fourth behind those guys."
Matt Kenseth, Casey Mears, Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer completed the first ten finishers.
Jimmie Johnson was involved in a couple of incidents including a lap 143 tangle with Bobby Labonte, who wound up slamming the wall after making contact with Johnson.
Johnson was able to continue but finished 32nd, shrinking his lead in the NEXTEL Cup Series standings to only eight over Kenseth. Dale Earnhardt, Jr, Kasey Kahne and Stewart round out the first five with nine races remaining before the "Chase for the NEXTEL Cup" begins.
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