Tony Stewart figured out the restarts just in time to win the Emory Healthcare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series night race Sunday, holding off Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson for his third win at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Stewart spent most of the night on the radio with his crew, apologizing for spinning his tires and costing himself valuable track position each time the green flag waved. As the laps ticked down, he promised crew chief Darian Grubb that he had, "one more trick," to try.
But when it came down to it, Stewart was too nervous to try the old dirt-tracking trick of dragging the brake pedal. What he did instead was nail the restart clean, powering himself to the front of the pack during restarts on both lap 301 and lap 308.
"I didn't hit a restart all night 'til the end there. I'm so proud of my crew, they put me in the position to be able to do this," Stewart said, still winded from the four-hour, 500-mile marathon under the lights. "I've never been this happy to win a race in my life."
Edwards, himself a three-time winner at Atlanta, was happy with his runner-up finish, admitting that he didn't have anything for Stewart at the end.
"(Stewart's) car was amazing," Edwards said. "The place where he was driving on the race track, I couldn't go there."
Peachtree City's Reed Sorenson was the highest finishing Georgia driver, ending the night 14th. Unadilla-native David Ragan finished 19th, Dawsonville's Bill Elliott 23rd and former Alpharetta resident Joey Logano was 27th.
Night racing returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway Sept. 2-4 for the biggest Labor Day party in the country, complete with races in each of NASCAR's top three series. Visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com or call (877) 9-AMS-TIX for more information.